The Sound of Too Many Thunders
Three people enter a large steel chamber with a white round metal platform in the middle of it. The platform itself is ten meters in diameter and very much featureless except for handhold railings in four directions and steps leading up to the platform. The three, all young and strong, make their way up the steps and onto that platform. They bring with them plastic cases and measuring equipments. All of them are suited up with a type of light form-fitting body armor for their torso. Two of them are male, carrying semi-automatic machine rifles. The lone woman of the group is the only one with a smirk on the face.
The woman adjusts her glasses and stands by one of the railings. The right side of her chest's armor is emblazoned with and clearly identifying her name: Bright. Her full name is Jill Bright. She watches her two teammates put down the equipment before she makes her pronouncement. Satisfied that nothing is missing, she begins her self-obligatory speech, "Gentlemen, we are about to embark on a journey beyond time, beyond space, beyond dimensions…"
"Uhhh… I thought you said this was a time machine?" the one gung ho looking man interrupted her. He goes by the name Falcone but most others call him Junior. "You know, travel from one time to another… go prehistoric, go medieval, go World War II…"
"Shut up, I'm not talking to you," Jill Bright snobbishly tells him off.
"But you just did."
"Talk to me."
"No, I'm not."
"Yes, you are!"
"Huh? What? Shut up! Shut up! I don't want to talk to you!" Her face has turned red. Junior tries to hold himself from losing it and let out a loud bellow of laughter. She gives him an angry glare and wonders how he and his other teammate, Bogart, always manage to somehow get under her skin. She spots the only other person who would not try to push her buttons, Elmer Jones. Elmer would never dare, this she knows. "Ah, Jones, you should feel honored to be a part of this expedition."
Ever the loyal and dependable man he is, Elmer says, "Yes, Ma'am."
It appeared Junior was about to say something but Jill quickly cut him off, "Don't say another word. I know what you were going to say."
"What? I didn't say anything." There is a coy smile on Junior's face.
In a very woody jungle, a bright light flashes and scared a little lizard away from its comfortable position on a branch. The metal platform appears and hovers above the more grassy area. The platform itself is the time machine.
"Gentlemen," Jill said, "Welcome to the 65 million B.C."
The three people on the platform start getting to their work. Being the headman for this project, Jill gives them directions as which equipment to unpack and which monitoring machines to set together. "That one records atmospheric conditions, be careful. And, remember, don't ever get off this platform. We don't want to accidentally leave anything modern in this era. The last thing we want is to create some catastrophe in time. And be responsible for it."
"Nehhhh, I think I'll just leave you to your machines. They're not my, uh… fort," Junior tells her. He stood up and took his machine rifle and slung it over his shoulder.
"Forte, you cretin." Jill corrected him. "The time machine is surrounded by a force field so we really hardly have a need for your security."
"Umm, can I ask a question?" Elmer asked while raising his hand. "If the force field is turned on, will we get the readings we need?"
"No, we have to turn it off first."
"Then, you need ME!" Junior tried to corner her psychologically.
"No, we don't. We can turn it on anytime we need," she haughtily said.
And just that, a loud roar erupted right behind her. All three of them became speechless and slowly turned around to see the source of the roar. That source was a tyrannosaurus rex. It stood a great 43 feet, well-muscled and very hungry. Jill cries out to Elmer, "Quick! The force field! Turn it on!" The noise she is making has attracted the dinosaur's attention.
Elmer is panicking just as she is. "I don't know how to turn it on!" He fumbled with the equipment's controls all to no avail.
"Oh, God! We're going to die!" Jill screamed.
All that screaming and crying were followed by continuous gunshots. It was Junior and he is using his machine rifle to kill the dinosaur. One shot at the throat, another one somewhere lower at the chest and one that just happened to amazingly shoot off a claw from one of the tyrannosaurus's fingers. But this was not enough, it takes more than what they have now to kill it.
"I need something that can shoot faster!" Junior yells.
Elmer quickly rummaged through their packs and throws Junior what appears to be a light version of the M-60 with the ammo box attached to its feed mechanism. "Here, catch!" he says.
Junior catches the weapon with ease and starts a steady stream of gunfire at the dinosaur. Elmer assists him by firing shots of his own with the machine rifle. The more powerful M-60 Lite cuts through a lot of the T-Rex. It is weakening and losing a lot of blood. It still attempts to pace forward but, inevitably, it gives in and faces its mortality. It falls to the ground.
Junior and Elmer make whooping sounds, their sound of victory. However, Jill does not share their moment and makes her decision to criticize them. "My God! Do you have any idea what you two just did? You just shot a dinosaur dead! The timeline may be irrevocably damaged. Even the smallest element can change the path of the time stream!"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Blah, blah, blah. But we killed the T-Rex and we're alive." Junior brushed off her concerns. He slings the M-60 Lite over his shoulder and takes out a cigarette.
"You killed it with bullets!" She tried to push her point further.
"Uh-huh." Unconcerned, Junior tried to look for a lighter in his pockets.
Every person has their boiling point and Jill quickly reaches hers. She pulls away the cigarette from Junior's mouth and forcing him to say, "Wha?!" She squashes it under her foot and then gives him an angry stare. "That's it! This mission is scrubbed. We're going home! But first, we're going to… No… YOU're going to have to clean up this mess." She hands him a magneto device, a machine that magnetically retrieve spent shell casings and bullets. "Nothing from our time must be left!"
"Oh, all right," Junior said, clearly annoyed. "You're a bitch, you know that?"
"Yeah, yeah, I've heard that before. Now do it!" She pointed to the dead dinosaur and stamped her foot.
It took Elmer and Junior the better part of two and a half hours retrieving all the bullets. The magneto devices were a great help in retrieving many of them but, powerful as they are, even the machines had its limits. It could only pull out the bullets that were buried superficially into the dinosaur's body which would be about an inch to two deep. Any deeper, they had no choice but to dig them out with their knives and hands. It was disgusting work but they managed to do it. Now, there was one more problem they encountered in their task and they have not told Jill about it.
"How are we going to dig out the bullets that hit the trees? The magnets couldn't pull them out," Elmer asks his friend.
Junior looked about the trees and realizes that it was the one problem they have not expected encountering. Were they to continue their task, it would likely force them to stay another day or two. It was not an attractive option considering it takes more effort to dig the bullets out of the bark. That would mean a lot of hacking and slashing and they are already tired. He makes the decision, "Ahh, hmmm… We don't tell her. Yeah, that's it. She's afraid of doing any more damage to the timeline, we do take down those trees, we're doing that. Anyway, we don't have axes and chainsaws now, do we?"
They head back to the time platform and Jill spots them. She asks, "Did you get all the bullets?"
"Yes, honey. We did." Junior got up on the platform and showed her a handful of the retrievals.
"Really? I thought there were more bullets than that?"
"They're all in this bag. Now, let's go home."
The center of the huge chamber glow a bright white and the metallic platform appeared. The three explorers step down and walk out of the chamber quietly. They would not even look at each other. Jill Bright walked ahead of them and was more curious to find out if their actions in the past had any inadvertent effect to the present. "Who's the President of the United States?" she asks the attending technician present.
"You kind of look flustered," he said.
"Just answer the question. Who's the President of the United States?" she gritted her teeth as she asked once more. Her eyebrows were close to each other.
She must be in a really foul mood, the technician thought and he nervously replied, "George Bush."
"Which one?" she continued asking.
"Yes, yes, yes. That hasn't changed. Whew!" Jill wiped her brow in relief. A thought flashes through her head and she decides to ask one more question, "What about the Iraq War?"
"What do you mean about the Iraq War?" the confused technician asked.
"You know, Iraqi Freedom, Saddam Hussein captured, the Iraqi people are free…"
"That was over a year ago, now we have the Iran War."
"W-w-what?! NOoooooo!" she screamed and then she sat down and sobbed.
"But that's alright, 'cuz we're winning that one. Next we take over Libya."
That one did it. She walks briskly over to the locker room and simply burst in without knocking. Junior and Elmer were in the process of changing their uniforms and have just taken off their underwear to take a much needed shower. Her presence was hardly subtle and Elmer quickly covered himself up with a towel. Junior cried in surprise, "What the…? Hey!" He slipped from his seat and down to the floor. She did not waste any time and started rummaging through the uniform they used in the expedition.
"What the hell are you looking for?" Junior asked her furiously. He did not bother to cover himself up. He is still nursing his aching buttock, a result of his slip.
In little time, she found what she is looking for. From the heel of Junior's boot, a six-legged winged wonder. It had a wide wingspan for so small a creature. Mottled with brown patterns, it was a butterfly. The thought quickly flashed through Jill's head at the implications this tiny thing had and in no time at all, she reached her conclusion. She started beating on Junior's chest, "You son of a bitch! Now, I'm living a Bradbury nightmare!"
"It's a butterfly," Elmer said as he picked up the dead insect. "And we brought it with us…"
"Yeah, a dead butterfly. So what?" Junior was not sure what to make of the situation.
"Killing that butterfly," Jill picked it up from Elmer's hand, "Inadvertently altered our timeline. The United States is composed of fifty-eight states, including Britain and it's still expanding."
"So, it's dead? What are we going to do about it?" Junior sneered.
It did not take long for the three to gear up again and head back to the prehistoric past for one more excursion. The plan was simple. With LightLabs' facilities, they were able to clone the butterfly and placed it in a special container. They would go back to the moments after they left and they would release the clone and hope the timeline will revert itself back.
The platform materializes in the same spot they came. The three time explorers stepped down. Not wasting any more time, Jill tells Elmer, "Do it."
Elmer carefully opens the container and butterfly clone flutters out. It dances in the air as if it is unsure where to go. The three watch with bated breath as to where it is headed. Finally, it moves towards the woods and headed to the bushy areas. The three breathe easy. The timeline ought to be restored to the way it was on their trip back.
Out of nowhere, the double-crested head of a Dilophosaurus appears out of bushes and with one snap of its jaws, it snags the butterfly in mid-flight. The thought of all the hard work cloning and smuggling the butterfly into the time platform going to waste causes Jill to scream in frustration. Her screeching bawl forces her two teammates to cover their ears.
She reminds Junior as too much of a spoiled child that needs to be sated quickly. "Alright! Alright! I'm getting it back!" He runs towards the Dilophosaurus with the intent to shoot it dead. The dinosaur is the size of a small child, like an eight-year old, but it could run and run fast it did. It was too difficult for Junior to aim and run at the same time, what with the trees and all, so he took out his military knife. Jill was trying to say something to him, he could not understand what she is saying and ignores her.
With enough speed and momentum, Junior slams his knife onto the running dinosaur's tail. The knife digs deep, penetrating all the way to another exit. The dinosaur slips and falls to the ground. Angered, it hisses and tries to take a bite out of Junior. He instinctively reaches for his .45 caliber handgun and the muzzle simply happened to be aimed into the monster's mouth and he shoots. More out of desperation than anything, he shoots it several more times.
"Oh, my God," Jill said.
"Yeah, it's dead," declared Junior. He sheathes his knife and blows away the mist from his gun's smoking muzzle. "Oh, yeah. I'm good. I am the best!"
Elmer disagrees, "Uh, I don't think you were supposed to do that." He checks the dinosaur's corpse. The butterfly was not swallowed all the way but clearly it is dead. "Uh, I think we have to do it all over again."
A look of dread washes over Jill's face.
As quickly as they came, they left back to the present. Jill is first to get off the time platform and open the door to find out what has changed. Once again, she shrieks in horror and the two men had to quickly sprint towards her to find out what it is.
What she found was a roomful of obese people. And Jill, she lets out a scream of frustration.
Each time they go back to the past, they set the time a few minutes from the time they last left. Each time they go back, they try to replace whatever object, living or otherwise. Each time, they meet failure. Another predator, a stray shot, another animal stepped on, all of them contributed one way or another in giving birth to new timelines.
Junior, Jill and Elmer have gone back and forth several times at almost non-stop. If taken into account, they would have spent nearly two days hardly eating anything and getting any actual sleep. But Jill presses on much to the complaints of her two companions. She is going to fix the timeline or die trying.
Their latest excursion has them create a clone for the chicken-sized dinosaur, a Procompsognathus. This time, they are forced to go further deep down in the woods. About thirty meters in, they stop and set the little cage and open it. "C'mon little dude, time for you to join the world," Elmer called to it.
The little dinosaur ran into a near-open clearing where a lone Velociraptor jumped out of nowhere and grabbed it with its mouth. The compy flays about and quickly lay limp and dead. Jill lets out a scream of frustration, "Nnnoooo!" Her scream gains the attraction of the Raptor. It releases the dead compy from its jaws and starts to run towards their direction.
Junior sees this and, as is typical of him, his first instinct is to draw out his pistol and shoot at the Raptor. Jill saw him do this but she is too late to stop him. He fires three continuous bursts. She turns her head to see the Raptor clinch back in pain and starts to run away. "There, that scared him away," he said.
"You idiot! Now you have to go after that Raptor and retrieve that bullet," she said to him angrily.
"Wha-at?!" both Junior and Elmer exclaimed.
They complained, they protested, they threatened to not do her order but no amount of argument is going to sway Jill Bright. Also, she is the only one who could operate the time machine and it would only do them well if they do her bidding. And here they are, stalking one of the most lethal predators to walk the Earth.
Right behind the bushes they watch as the Raptor turned out to be a she and she is checking to see if her nest has been disturbed while she was away. A thought passes through Elmer's mind and brought it to issue, "Umm, just how are we going to get the bullet back?"
"I don't know," Junior answered his friend. "It's not like we brought tranquilizers or anything…" He glared at Jill who was crouching right beside him.
"As a matter of fact, I did." And she took out a gun with a tranquilizer dart set. "You have one shot at this and you better make this work."
"Why do I have to do everything, huh?" Two days without much rest was finally getting to Junior and their squabble has brought the Raptor's attention to them. The Raptor snarled and sets its legs into a jumping position.
It all happened so fast. None of them were sure at what exact point the Raptor jumped, foot claws extended and mouth wide open. Jill was still holding the tranq gun but she is no fighter and is too shocked at the moment that she simply froze. Junior quickly took hold of her arm and aimed her gun-holding hand at the Raptor. He pushed her trigger finger and the dart lands right at the Raptor's neck. However, the momentum is not enough to stop the Raptor and collides with them.
Even though they scored a direct hit, the tranquilizer does not work immediately. The Raptor thrashes about. Its tail lashes about and hits Elmer square in the chest, throwing him several feet away. Jill fell down to her back but found she unable to get up. One of the Raptor's feet is stepping directly right on her chest. Only her standard issue body armor is protecting her from impaled by the big middle claw on the Raptor's foot. Junior attempts to wrestle with the Raptor which almost bit off his right arm. He was able to make it step off Jill.
The Raptor spun around causing Junior to be thrown through the air. The dinosaur, though, finally gives in to the tranquilizer but it managed to fall down on Jill. Once again, she is like a pig squealing trying to get out of a mud trap. She muttered, "Great…"
Moments later, after much pulling, pushing and lifting, Elmer and Junior were able to move the dinosaur off Jill. Instead of trying to catch her breath, she quickly got up and started examining the unconscious Raptor.
"Uh, I think you should relax first," Elmer commented.
"Can't…" she tells him, "Must fix… the timeline…" She gropes all over its neck looking for the bullet wound. Her head is aching not just from the stress but also fatigue and lack of sleep. She's not letting it stop her. She finds it, the bullet hole in the neck. "Elmer, get the knife and start digging out the slug." She lays down in exhaustion.
"I… can't…" he said.
Wondering why his speech faltered, Jill sat up and notices they are not quite alone. The velociraptor's pack has them surrounded. Tears ran down her cheeks and she bit her lip. Too tired, she thought, she cannot keep fighting anymore, she closes her eyes.
It took the better part of thirty minutes but thanks to his martial arts skills, technology beyond time and the always reliable company-issued body armor, Junior was able to slay the entire pack of Raptors. All eight of them. Still, that did not stop Jill Bright from sobbing and bawling.
A bloody Junior complained, "Dammit, woman! Shut up! I don't think I can go another round with them."
"But…" she continued sobbing, "What are we going to do? The timeline is entirely destroyed. There's no way we can fix it now." And then she heard a sound like a thick shell cracking. "What was that?"
"Oops! I guess I stepped on the nest," Junior replied. He looks under his boot where a bloody Raptor embryo is attached.
Jill is no longer crying; she is screaming her lungs out. "Wwwwhhhhyyyy?! What did I do to deserve this?!"
"Please, stop," Elmer pleaded and looking especially worried. "We might attract bigger dinosaurs."
"Don't care… Going to kill him…" She got up and took out a gun. But instead of successfully shooting, she slips and falls to the ground. "Oh, it's impossible. We're doomed."
Junior is finally tired of her whining and decides that there is only one other way to get this all over with. He waits a few minutes before finally asking, "Ho-kay… If going back in time to correct our mistakes keep ending us in deep s, what if we go way, way earlier before the time we came in? Do you think we can go back without incident?"
Tears were still rolling down her cheeks but she is calmer now, Jill replies, "No, we go before the point of origin of this trouble, nothing will change. Hell, we might end up meeting ourselves and that will open up a whole new can of worms."
"Hmm, what happens if we steal our… the other us… their time machine…" Elmer tried to ask.
"I don't know…" was her pathetic reply. "I imagine we'd end up destroying the entire timeline."
"Or… we might be getting two time machines that go different ways! You're a genius, Elmer!" Junior cries out loud and he and Elmer give a high five to each other.
"What?!" the rage in Jill comes back again but this rage is specifically triggered by nonsensical reasoning.
They lie in wait. Their time machine is moved right beside from its original position. Only one man wait with bated breath at the next few moments that is sure to come. His loyal companion waits but with more dread to his anticipation. The lone female sits cross-legged on the white metal platform.
Junior checks his watch as the moment approaches. He cocks his rifle and stares to witness a white hot ball of light materialize right in front of them. The light takes form and begins to materialize. Another platform appears with equal three figures on top of it. Jill, who was sulking before, now gets up as her interest is piqued. Even the prospect of physically meeting your own self would shake the sense of the down trodden.
"Gentlemen," the other Jill said, "Welcome to the 65 million B.C."
Other Elmer spots the original group. "Umm, Miss Bright? Isn't that us?"
Other Jill tells him, "What the hey! This isn't supposed to be right! Even I know no two same person should encounter themselves in the same time and place. It'll create a paradox! I just wouldn't do that."
"Really?" Other Junior said, "Then, that means they're impostors!" He cocks his own rifle too.
Junior challenges back, "Who you calling impostor, huh?" He, too, takes out his rifle and aims at the Other group. "We're taking your time machine!"
"Is that so?" Other Junior spat back, "You're gonna have to try to get through me first!"
"Wait! Wait!" Other Jill puts her arms up in the hopes of a peaceful resolution. "There has to be a perfectly good explanation for this! We can help each other!" Other Jill looks at Jill, "You're in trouble right? You're another me. I'm sure whatever's troubling you, we can do something, right?"
Jill looks away, her face winces but not from any physical pain. "No, there's nothing you can do now. It… it's out of my hands."
"Ah, hell! I just wanna go home!" Junior is the first to pull the trigger, forcing the Other group to take cover. No one is hit as he deliberately missed. His real objective is to get onto the other time platform. He runs and jumps over the hand rails. He would have made it were it not for the force shield. His body impacts on it and throws him back. "Ooowweeee!"
In an unusual show of initiative, Elmer takes control of their own time platform and activates the hover engines. He rams their time platform against the Other's. With both shields raised, the two platforms collided and sparks flew and visible electrical currents arced all over. "Oh, great! Now we're dead even!" cried Jill.
At that exact moment, the original tyrannosaurus rex that attacked them is back, alive as it was then and is now. It roared, it bellowed and it comes charging towards the two platforms. Other Jill says with a sigh of relief, "Good thing we have our shields up!"
The beast, possessing useless arm limbs, used its snout to hammer at the two time machines. It was indeed shocked by the electricity coursing all over the two machines. But rather than let it stop it, it continued and hit the force fields over and over, shaking all the occupants. Both teams had no choice but to hold on and wait for the beast to tire and move on. Before long, it was becoming difficult to steady themselves from the continuous battering.
Eventually, the Other Junior has had enough and tells Other Jill, "Dammit! I can't take this any more! Someone's got to put a stop to this!" He turns off the shield, brings up his machine rifle and starts shooting at the monster. The dinosaur let out a bellow of annoyance.
"Junior, the other time machine!" Elmer cried. The other machine was exposed to the creature's attacks and it is so close.
Junior understood. Elmer turned off their own shields and they joined in shooting down the tyrannosaurus. Junior makes several continuous shots all aimed at the head. One lucky shot tears through the beast's eye. It let out a howl of pain. During this fit of torment, the tyrannosaurus manages to kick over the Other time platform, ejecting the occupants in the process. Never ceasing to let an opportunity slip away, Junior uses the grenade launcher attached to his rifle. He pulls the trigger and the launcher makes an "oomph" sound. The cylindrical explosive punches through the giant lizard's hide and, a muffled but no less powerful, explosion followed. The beast falls.
It is only their luck that the dying beast does not fall on top of the other time machine. They quickly jump down from their own time machine and run towards the other. Someone stops them in their tracks and it is their other selves. "Stop or I'm gonna blow your heads off!" cried Other Junior.
Junior uses his own rifle to bat the weapon away from his other self. Other Junior, though, was equally resilient and kicks away his opponent's weapon. Now both are forced to resort to unarmed combat. Just as they were to go at it, someone shouts to them to halt, "Stop! You can't touch each other!"
Both Juniors are bewildered and both of them ask her at the same time, "Yeah? What's gonna happen if I touch him, huh?"
She has read all the sci-fi books that dealt with time travel. She has even attended symposiums and forums and read serious books about time travel. She ran all the possible scenarios in her head using all the information she has learned but Jill is forced to come to a great realization and to a simple fact, "I… I… I don't know!"
"Huh! To hell with it!" One Junior makes the first strike which the other quickly blocks. The two trade roundhouse kicks, punches and blocks but since they are essentially the same person, their fight is a stalemate. Apparently, nothing will happen if the same person makes contact with his other self.
Other Jill picks up an electro rifle and takes her aim. "This has got to end!" A ball of energy shoots out of the rifle and hits one of the Juniors, shocking him and taking him out of commission.
"My god! Which one of them was with us?" Jill panicked. "I lost track of who's who!"
"Umm," Elmer tried to say. He pointed his finger at the remaining Junior to stand. "I'd think he would be the one who's spent the last couple of days not taking a bath."
"Yeah! I'm a winner, baby!" Junior cried in triumph.
"Oh, shut up! You just got lucky," Other Jill retorted. She is about to shoot him with another stun bolt only to find herself receiving her own shock. What she saw was her own self armed with the same weapon before she fell unconscious.
Other Elmer stood there unsure what to do. Junior clenched his fists and stomped towards him. Scared witless, Other Elmer quickly ran away while Junior taunts him, "Yeah, yeah. Go run away, you useless bastard!"
"I'm not a useless bastard," Elmer resented his other self being called as such.
"Who cares?! Let's go home!" Jill tells them both. Personally, she could not believe they actually pulled it off, that they could beat their other selves and take over the other time machine. Perhaps, she thought, that this crazy, nay, insane plan of Junior's is actually going to work.
They got on board the other time platform. The feeling of being on that other machine is uncanny. Everything is the same, not only in how it looks but down to the tiniest atom. But they did not go deeper in thought about the situation. All each wanted was to go home and get this nightmare over with.
The time coordinates have been inputted. Jill pushed the switch. The machine hummed, bright lights spiraled all over it and as soon as it came there, it flashed out of existence.
The time machine reappears back to existence. There, standing at its control panel, Jill rechecks the data if they have put in the right time coordinates. She double checks again. While she was feeling somewhat assured a while ago, now something in her heart makes her feel fearful. She hated to say this but she felt she had to and bit her lip, "Umm, I… why don't we go back?"
Both Junior and Elmer just got off and started to unload their equipment. They threw their hands in the air and complained, "Oh, come on!"
"We have to…" Jill tried to say. Normally, she would be angry and throwing her tantrum if her orders are not obeyed. Right now, her throat is parched and no more words could come out.
"I'm not going to go back on that machine! I've had enough!" Junior angrily tells her. And at just that moment, several balls of energy electrocutes both he and Elmer to unconsciousness. At the door of the machine's holding room, several black clad figures race in to surround them.
Instinctively, Jill tried to reactivate the time machine but a blast from one of the black enforcers destroys the control panel. One of the enforcers ran up the platform to subdue her. She tried to fight back and manages to pull his mask off. She saw what she had to see before strong backhand slap knocked her down.
She looked up again and knew that this is the reality for her. She is on her knees and hands. She would not show her face to them. It was too painful a realization.
She muttered loudly, "Damn you, God. Damn you…"