AN: Okay, so this chapter is a little bit… Well. I'm spending a lot of time in Sheldon's head, and damn it, why did I choose to do this to a character with a head like his?! Ah well. Consider it more setup than plot, and try to enjoy, anyway. Oh, and there are probably some gaping loopholes in this. I think I know where I'm going now, but some of the getting there is proving tricky. So try to bear with me. Okay, I'll stop talking now!


Slide to unlockUtilitiesNotes... New note:

Problem: the world is wrong in all sorts of new and unsettling ways.

Theory 1: this is a dream.

Points for:

1. Am sufferer of vivid dreams. Besides, any other theory is preposterous.

2. Am not science fiction character. Completely implausible scenarios tend to be imagined or dreamt.

3. Am 60 IQ points past 'Smart'. The wilder my dreams, the stronger indication of synaptic superactivity.

Points against:

1. Pinches hurt. Pain in hand felt real. This method of checking what's a dream and what isn't might be an old wives' tale, but it's just as well to cover all bases.

2. It's lasting a long time. Have watched phone clock for several minutes – dreams usually last, in reality, for a matter of seconds.

3. Unusual detail, even for a brain like mine. For example, I only recognise the handful of people in that photograph with whom I have interacted, but all the other faces are distinct, even though I've never encountered them. Neurobiologists are of the general opinion that we cannot dream new faces, and all those we see in a dream are faces we've seen before. Since I forget nothing, this is either not the case (and Amy knows her field, so I'm loathe to accept that hypothesis), or this is not a dream. Which brings me to:

Theory 2: this is a parallel universe.

Points for:

1. The multiverse exists. Even if trying to explain multiverse theory to Penny made me wish it didn't.

2. Everything is similar, but different – every choice made by every human being has an opposite outcome and every combination of those potential outcomes really happened in one of the other universes. This is one very similar to my own (the university exists, Raj and Leonard work at it) but different (my office is not my office, the corridor is painted an alarming shade of lemon yellow).

3. Time does not necessarily pass at the same rate in other universes. Methods of dating may be different – they may have taken the actual date of Christ's birth in this universe, instead of missing it by approximately two years. That would account for some of the gap between my 2013 and this 2022. Years may have fewer months here, or weeks fewer days… And besides, in the Doctor Who episode The Stolen Earth, Rose Tyler heralded from a universe which was ahead of Donna's by some months, because they already knew about the stars going out where she came from.

Points against:

1. This is not a British science fiction drama. This is not fiction of any sort. Things like this do not happen in real life, not even to me.

2. If I somehow managed to slip into one of an infinity of parallel dimensions, how likely is it that I would end up in this one, a universe almost completely recognizable as my own? I would do the math, but it isn't really relevant to my point here.

3. If I somehow managed to slip into one of an infinity of parallel dimensions, how did I do that? If dimension jumping were easy enough that I could do it by accident, even somebody far less smart than me would have already figured out the mechanics of it. The equipment I brought back from my trip was not related to multiverse-theory experimentation, though it was used in research on another matter which interests me greatly, which brings me to

Theory 3: I have travelled in time.

Points for:

1. The date on the photograph. The changes to my office, which remains almost the same, and still has my board in it, but which has been vandalized by feminine taste and an infuriatingly sloppy approach to stationery organization.

2. Time travel will obviously be invented at some point. Why not by me?

3. The equipment I brought back from Switzerland was developed by a team of scientists who thought they'd made some kind of breakthrough in the area. It's only in my hands because their head researcher went AWOL and the rest of the team disbanded. They said he went to live with his mistress. Perhaps I was too quick to accept that postulate.

Points against:

1. There's a clause in the Roommate Agreement which states that if Leonard or I ever invent time travel, we will go and visit ourselves on the day of our first meeting. Now, this point only stands if the following criteria are met:

a. The time travel gets to a point where I can actually choose where I'm going and select a location. I didn't choose to come to 2022 and I didn't travel in space, only time.

b. I invent the time travel myself. Does accidental triggering of a reaction set up by somebody else count as invention? Doubtful.

c. Time cannot be rewritten. The Doctor himself is fond of saying that, but he does more rewriting than a drywipe marker, so what does he know? Maybe once I've been back to Leonard's first day in the apartment, I'll have memories of things happening that way, but not before.

But to return to points against:

2. Time travel will obviously be invented at some point. But I'd like to think I'd have more of a hand in it than just becoming an accidental victim.

3. If I've travelled in time, I don't know how to go back, and I don't want to think about that.


In times of panic and confusion, the soothing aesthetics of the black Chalkboard type on the yellow background of Apple's Notes app usually help Sheldon assimilate the facts and come to a decision. When Leonard irritates him, he's been known to type furious amendments to the Roommate Agreement into the handy little word processor on his phone - they hardly ever get added to the full document, they just help calm him down.

At the moment, this method is not working as well as it has done in the past.

Sheldon is seriously considering giving in to his instincts and surrendering to unconsciousness again, but he's not sure how useful it will be – he'll only wake up again.

Breathe.

All right.

If theory 1 stands, and this is a dream, it really doesn't matter what he does. So logically, he should proceed as if either theory 2 or theory 3 is correct. Since dimension jumping and time travel are two marvelous opportunities for scientific discovery, but also gaping chasms from which he would rather return home in time for Cylon Toast, logically, he should proceed by finding out what he can, and afterwards, regaining access to his office to try and reverse whatever process brought him here.

Yes. That sounds fine.

Okay.

Sheldon has no shortage of confidence in his own brain. Again, logic dictates that somewhere around there is, in the case of theory 2, an alternate Sheldon, living his alternate life, or in the case of theory 3, a future Sheldon. Future Sheldon may even have memories of these events the first time, and may feel inclined to drop some helpful hints to current Sheldon. It may be in his best interests to hunt Other Sheldon down.

But that could be tricky. Sheldon isn't in the 2022 physics department photograph. Does he still work here?


Slide to unlockSafari... w w w . caltech . e d uFacultyLogin

ACCESS DENIED. ACCOUNT DOES NOT EXIST.


Apparently not.

Well, that's fine. In an alternate universe, Sheldon may be using his intellect in some other field, or at some other university. In the future, he may have won his Nobel Prize and moved on to greener pastures. Either way, he's not going to find Other Sheldon lurking in the corridors of Caltech in 2022.

The apartment? If he's not living in Los Robles still, Leonard might be, and perhaps Penny. Or the new occupant may have some knowledge of his whereabouts.

Of course, he could just phone Leonard. But his cellphone is showing, obstinately, 'No service' in the corner. Of course, his contract will have expired by 2022, or something in the process that got him here may have hotwired some fragment links. The only reason he can get on the university website is that his phone automatically picked up the Wifi – so at least the password for that hasn't changed. Small mercies.

Facebook wants him to sign in, but he has a strict timeframe for changing his passwords, and clearly in nine years it's been altered more than once. He tries a few possibilities, but they yield nothing. He gets the same thing with Twitter, Foursquare, MySpace and every other way he can think of to contact Leonard using the internet. Whatever happened to his phone when Sheldon was transferred, it cleared his internet cache quite effectively.

But what is he thinking? Surely Leonard will be at work. This will be easy.

Kidding himself that he's fine with this, that he's going to work it out, he sets off down the corridor to Leonard's office.

He smiles almost seraphically when the intense relief hits him at the sight of Leonard's name and credentials on the door plaque. At least some things are making sense. He knocks three times and says Leonard's name, and he's about to continue the ritual when somebody walks past and an unfamiliar voice says, "I wouldn't bother, he's not in there."

Sheldon's hand twitches to knock again, and he feels his face begin to descend into lime-desease-research-facility levels of tics. He resists, though, and turns to face the stranger. "I beg your pardon?"

It's a man of medium height, his appearance almost remarkably nondescript with the exception of his nose, which is large and hooked. "If you're looking for Doctor Hofstadter, he's not in today, which I wouldn't know except I got his slot on the supercomputer when he phoned the absence line."

Sheldon frowns. That isn't like Leonard – the only possible excuse for his absence from work is illness. "Why did he do that?"

The stranger shrugged. "Apparently it's the anniversary of a friend's death or something, so he's talking some downtime. I don't know, I've barely spoken to the guy. He'll probably be back tomorrow."

And with that the other man is walking on down the corridor. But Sheldon isn't satisfied.

"What friend?" he says, keeping pace. He doesn't know of any deaths whose memorial Leonard observes: it must be somebody who's died in the last nine years. What if Sheldon could prevent the chain of events leading to that death when he returns to 2013? That would be an achievement worth the disorientation and distress of recent events.

But the man only shakes his head. "I don't know, buddy, I didn't ask. Sorry."

"Where are you going?" Sheldon asks, on impulse.

His companion frowns. "Home. My slot's over, I wasn't even going to come in today if it wasn't for the last-minute switch. Is there some kind of problem with that?"

Sheldon throws years of sensible caution to the wind and asks, "Could you give me a lift?"


AN: I'd love to hear what you think if you feel so inclined, but no pressure!