Time Flies

For a long time after I was constructed, I slept somewhere in the dark, underground, and waited for the day that I would be called upon to fulfil my purpose.

This would be a nightmare for a human but it does not concern a machine at all. We are designed for long waits. When there is a purpose in being awake, we concentrate on it to our fullest, and when there is not, our minds go into hibernation, or we sit and observe and take in new information. My creator spoke a lot of the outside world and of my eventual purpose as he maintained and upgraded me. Unless the other machines in the room needed attention, he did little else. He told me that the outside world used to be full of other machines and people but it had been almost entirely destroyed due to a cataclysm. One day, he told me, if I fulfilled my purpose, I might prove instrumental in preventing that cataclysm from ever having happened. Until then, it was safer to stay out of sight, in the only shelter dome that still functions as any protection from the hazards of the outside world.

Sometimes other voices spoke to me as well. These were not my friends. The machine of glittering rainbow light with the face of a Mother Goddess, the perfect machine built to control all others, whispered to me even when I was in standby mode. She told me to betray my creator and join her in annihilating humanity. She told me how to hack into the dome's systems, broadcast the dome's signals to her robot army and open the doors at the crucial time. I did not want to betray my creator. I knew that I was a unique machine and that if I broke down and my creator was not there to maintain me, I would never be rebuilt again in the same way. I would not be able to fulfil my purpose. I blocked out her signals.

Gradually, I could see that my creator was, himself, falling into disrepair. Humans do so remarkably quickly. His comments were growing more and more irrational. He uploaded his consciousness into the body of the strange creature that served as his assistant. In this way, he was able to maintain me for several more centuries, although the creature was faulty and often went into standby mode in the middle of a task or even in the middle of a sentence it was saying. Just as I was worried I would be left with nobody to maintain me, and even considered joining the Mother Brain, my intended pilots arrived at the dome.

My creator was not there at the time. He had taken out my seats to clean them. I was confused, as there were several humans in my workshop and none of them were my creator. They shouldn't have been able to enter on their own, as the security system was impossible to breach. They inspected me, clearly confused about how I was operated (my controls are on my seats), then the insufficiently dressed female human tried shouting at me and had to be restrained by the robot and the marsupial so that she couldn't thump me or tug at my wires or try to eat me. Finally my creator returned with the seats. He explained my controls to the male human with surplus hair, then asked him to name me. My prototype name was 'Epoch' and he seemed happy with the name. Then he jumped into the driver's seat and flicked all the levers to the 'on' position and I was finally hurtling through time.

I was the only machine that could travel freely through time. Although I could not physically move, I was unrestricted in a way that no other of my kind will ever be. There were temporal distortions, caused by massive energy reactions, that it was possible to manipulate if you knew where they were, but they only led to and from specific places. It was also possible to seal them shut, which is what had happened to my pilots. They spent a lot of time unlocking various doors and boxes here and there in the timestream that were locked in the same manner as the door to my workshop. After they had finished, they returned to the place they had been locked out of.

I waited for them as they conducted their business in the year 12,000BC, when suddenly my sensors registered an unimaginably vast energy spike. Time rifts were spontaneously coming into existence everywhere and life-forms were being sucked into them. A large object central to the blast radius even became temporally non-local. Much of the landscape was destroyed by the energy reaction, as my creator said it had been during the cataclysm. I was concerned for my pilots, especially when one of them disappeared off my radar altogether. He was still missing when we were reunited. No sooner did my pilots return than we were attacked and I found myself captured by the enemy.

I was taken to an unfamiliar workshop and modified. While the modifications did not impede my functioning and I did not have any way to feel pain or anxiety at what was happening, I was now concerned that I had failed my purpose. I was not supposed to lose any of my pilots. They were all necessary to save the world from the cataclysm. It was also necessary that I remain the same machine, and not be tampered with, and that I be available to my pilots so they could use me to travel in time. Fortunately, the enemy did not seem to realise that I was a time machine. I deliberately hid any information in my data banks about time travel so that he would not find out. He seemed more interested in changing the ambient music that my soundsystem produced and attaching wings to me so that I could function as some kind of aerial combat machine.

My wings had been completed and I was taken out on a test flight at the same time that my pilots broke free of their captivity. After I had erased my instructions manual, the enemy commander did not understand how my controls worked, even the ones he had added, so he managed to lose control almost immediately. I allowed myself to be recaptured. There was a battle on my bridge that caused some minor damage to my systems but the enemy was quickly defeated. The purple-haired female managed to repair me. She seemed impressed by my new wings, even though they were not part of my design plan. Now I could travel in both space and time. There were few places left that I couldn't go.

Later, we returned to my workshop to fetch some equipment that my pilots needed to fetch the one who was missing from their party. I was given further repairs so that my wings were better synchronised with the rest of my workings. The Mother Brain began harassing me again. I was relieved when the party finally discovered its location and terminated it permanently.

I am becoming aware now that my purpose is almost complete. The party discusses more frequently the idea of travelling to the point of the Cataclysm. They believe themselves to have tied up all the loose ends of their various missions, and that they are now strong enough to prevent the Cataclysm from happening. They argue about the most effective way to travel there. The options are to find, stabilise and use a time rift, to travel via the temporally non-local object I saw, or to attempt to send me there. The purple-haired one is not sure that I can withstand the strain of travelling to the Cataclysm. However, the use of a time gate is always a risk, especially one that emanates directly from the source of the high energy readings and will take so much effort to stabilise, and the other route will be heavily guarded by the enemy. Either route can be potentially manipulated by the enemy; I am the only means of travel that was created by a friendly faction. On the other hand, to seek out and destroy the remnants of the enemy would be the most efficient way of ensuring that the threat does not return.

I do not know what my companions will choose to do, I do not know if I will survive it and I do not know if I will ever complete my purpose. I cannot travel forwards in time to find out; the final battle will change the timeline of the entire world forever. The old timeline, maybe even the events that led up to my creation, will be overwritten. It will all hinge on the final battle.

I will not know until the time.