Emporium of Awesome – 7

CHAPTER SEVEN – TEMPORAL MECHANICS

The day started like most others and James rolled into work about eight, a lot earlier than if he was just dealing with the store, but he had promised Tommy that he would get the information for the potential deal to buy countrywide.  Today was the day that he was going to present what he had to him. It was a pain in the ass, but since it had already happened he knew what was coming and how to avoid it.

He wasn’t a legal expert, but he had all of the court records, names, times etc so that he could consult with more lawyers to figure out what they could do.  The fact was he had talked to several already, but more information was always good. As he unlocked the door to enter though he smelled something weird. The lights were already on as well.

James followed the aroma to the diner in the middle.  It was ablaze with the logos and lights that it normally did when it was in full use, usually at night during gaming events.  He entered through one of the doors and saw Tommy sitting there having an omelet.

“Morning sunshine,” Tommy said between bites.  “Tell the chef what you want and he will make it.”

James looked back into the kitchen and saw a man working the grill.  “What the hell is going on? I don’t remember telling you I was presenting what I found to you today.”

Tommy stopped a moment and looked at him, “I didn’t know.  I thought you said you needed a couple of weeks?”

“I got done ahead of time.”

“Well then, that makes today a double event.  I am meeting with Todd’s lawyer today in New York.  I got a call from him yesterday.”

“So now it’s all coming together?”

“Of course, a private will reading.  I assume you want to tag along, while we travel you can pitch what you got to me.”

“That works.  When are we leaving?”

“As soon as you eat and grab what you need to.”

Soon, after the best breakfast he ever had, James and Tommy were off to a regional airport that wasn’t far from their store.  The Sparta regional airport was just one strip and a few hangers. James had never been there before and had no idea that his friend had a plane there, or even knew anyone with a plane.  But given the story he had been told and what he had witnessed he was bound to believe almost anything at this point.

They arrived at the airport and didn’t stop at the small terminal there, instead the driver kept going to the edge of the field and then towards the hangers through an open gate.  When they reached the farthest hanger a small just was sitting on the tarmac with its engines running. The door was open with the stairs down and a very attractive flight attendant.

The car stopped and the driver opened the door.  They both got out and walked to and into the plane.  The attendant followed them on. She pulled the stairs up and closed the door.  Then went to the cockpit. Soon the plane was taxing on the runway and prepared for take-off.  The usual spiel came over the speakers and they buckled in. Soon they were in the air and flying along at cruising altitude.

The legging blonde attendant came over to them.  “Is there anything I can get you gentlemen?”

“I will just have a beer,” Tommy said.  He then looked at James, “It is a full-service flight there bud, you can have anything.”  He winked as he finished the sentence.

James thought a minute.  “Just a pop.” The attendant smiled and turned, winking at Tommy as she went to the front to get their drinks.  “What the hell did you do as Todd?”

“Well its not like I could have a wife and kids, is it?  Besides it is consensual. They are paid to do the job they do, everything else is just a bonus.”

“What do you mean they?”  As James finished the sentence, A redhead and Burnette attendants came from the back of the plane.

“I mean officially they work for the estate of Mr. Matherson.  They are just that, attendants, but select persons can partake in extra benefits.  Well just me. But I have only flown on here twice before when I had too.”

“Anyway, back to the business at hand.”

“Yeah.  Once we get to New York and meet with the lawyer, then we will discuss your thing and take action from there.”

Their drinks arrived and James settled down a little.  “I do have a question though, I am sure you knew it was coming eventually.”

“The future?”

“Of course.”

“Remember how one can’t go back farther than they have existed, but they retain their age?”

“Yeah.”

“Well the one time I jumped to the future, it was ten years.  As soon as I arrived I felt pain all throughout my body. I saw a doctor.  Nothing was wrong with me per say, I just had the body of a regular fifty-year-old.”

“You aged when you jumped?”

“Exactly.  I figure if I had stayed I would have stayed at that age, but it makes it awkward.  I have no idea what the shock would do to me if I jumped farther. I think it is the universes way of keeping a check on time travel.”

“By the way, aren’t you worried about what the ladies might hear?”

“No, they are in the back.  After take off they go back there unless called.  We don’t have to worry.”

James looked around and realized they weren’t there.  The cockpit was closed as well. It was just the two of them in a nice leather interior jet traveling from Michigan to New York.  “I guess I can’t knock the travel arrangements.”

“You better not.  As I was saying though.  I mean it might be because traveling back is easier since everything is already set.  If you go to the future so many unknowns are there, that settling on one makes the process hit the traveler the way it did me.”

“That goes against everything science fiction has told us.  I mean time travel to the future is real according the relatively.”

“That isn’t time travel that is moving at different speeds through space time.  Relative to those moving slower, time passes faster. Just jumping around is different.”

“So you do know what is going on?”

“Hell no.  I just made the machine, I have no idea how temporal mechanics work.  Its like the first boats. Man figured out wood floats and made a raft, but he couldn’t explain the physics around it.  He just knew it works. Maybe someday someone will figure all this stuff out and make a time machine that counteracts all the things mine can’t.  Like how later ships could be made of steal and all that jazz.”

“So, you are just a humble boat builder with no idea how it really works?”

“Nope.  I just did some basic quantum math, applied it with engineering and poof, time travel.  The finer details are someone else’s problem.”

“You will have to tell me more about it someday.”

“Not how to. That is going to die with me.  Besides you are a finance guy, once I get past intermediate physics I would lose you.”

“Good point.”

Emporium of Awesome – 6

CHAPTER SIX – REAL ESTATE

“So you had a guy that did all of that for you?”

“Of course, it’s not I like I was going to stay the whole time and manage finances.”

“So you got lucky and found the right guy then.”

“Actually no, it took me five times to get it right.  I would leave enough instructions to cover 30 years. Once I made contact I would come back here and see what happened. If the held to the contract I would keep them, if not I would go back and change who I approached.”

“Seems like a lot of trial and error,” James said as he grabbed another roll from spread they had assembled.

“Well I had to be sure that it would get done.  I wasn’t going to leave something important like this to amateurs.”

“Fair enough.  I can’t imagine that thirty-years’ worth of information remained accurate though.”

“It didn’t, I had to go back and revise a lot, thus many of our conversations.  But I wasn’t going to do that for each schlub I tested. I figured if they followed the information to the letter, then good or bad I would know.  The first four tried to make things better when it got bad. I didn’t need thinkers, I needed followers. Nice, blind, obedient, followers.”

“So once you found the right guy, then you adjusted as you needed.”

“Correct, which brings me to my next point, and you.”

“Now we get to the good stuff.”

“Not really, unless you find lots of numbers and trading transactions fun.  I really can’t see how you did this for a living all those years. I took a few classes so I knew the topic and I found that boring.  Doing it for a living day in and day out, I would go insane.”

“I like numbers, what can I say?”

“That you like working here better.”

“Oh, I do, I get to deal with numbers and the nerdy shit I adore.  Not as much in the number department, but enough to make me happy.”

“So I think I have something that could make you potentially really happy.”

“What would that be?”

“I want you to pitch me a deal that would make a literal fuck ton of money.”

“I’m not in the market that much anymore.  I mean I still browse the journal occasionally, but nothing that I can think of that magnitude.”

Tommy leaned over as James took a bite of an eggroll and smacked the back of his head.  “Why the hell would I want you to pitch me an unknown? I have a damn time machine. Pitch me something from the last twenty years that could do the same.  Thing about it as a sure thing. If you have access to capital and resources at any point in time, that we can get too, what would you do to maximize profit?”

James pondered a moment while he rubbed the back of his head.  “Maybe take advantage of the housing crash of 2007 and 2008?”

“I tried that.  I got the securities that said it would fail.  I made some, but not a lot. The losses were eventually capped, for me at least, at around five billion.”

James stopped chewing and just stared at him a moment.  “Only five?” he said as pieces of eggroll dropped from his mouth.

“I am serious here dude.  The amount is not an obstacle.  Take a few to actually think and get as stupid on me as you want.  I mean even look at things that didn’t work out that well, and if they can be fixed and profit us then pitch that as well.”

James thought for a few more minutes as he finished the eggroll that had been plaguing him for too long now.  He started off at three six-foot Millennium Falcons that Toys R Us had for displays in the late 90s. They were engaged in a static position from a dogfight they were caught in, it was a thing Tommy had done with them.  At a grand a piece, James expected them to be that way for a while. For whatever reason though this sparked a thought.

“Countrywide!”

“Well sure, maybe someday I could franchise out, but that isn’t in my immediate plans.”

“No, the home loan company that was one of the main culprits of the crappy loans that brought about the housing collapse.”

“Oh yeah.  They really screwed the pooch on that one.”

“Anyway.  Bank of America bought them for like 4.1 billion, actually 2.5 when the deal closed.  But they lost a ton of money on the deal over the years as things were worse than they thought along with taking on all of Countrywide’s legal problems.”

“How big a loss are we talking?”

“About 40 to 50 billion.”

Tommy audibly gasped.  “I want to make money man.”

“I get that.  They went in thinking they knew what was going to happen.  But if we know all of that and how it will play out before hand then we can take it over and potentially turn that into, I don’t know 100 billion?”

“That is a huge difference.”

“Yes, it is, but if we have everything in place before we take it over, head the lawsuits off at the pass, and knowing when the markets will recover at what times in what markets we can take all of that property and mortgages and optimize revenue.”

“Sounds like a lot of leg work.”

“How far did Kirk have to go to get Spock back?”

“Fair enough, what are the main things we will need?”

“Well to even have a shot at it, we would need some kind of heavy financial company to have the credibility to buy them out.  The government has to approve the deal, that kind of thing. And I will have to do a lot of homework. I just hope we can have everything in place to make it happen.”

“Remember the Y2K scare?”

James looked at him weird for a moment, “Off topic, but yeah.”

“In 1995 I set up a small computer repair company that had every conceivable variation of fixes for the problem.  Every system, network, whatever. You might have heard of it, Safe Systems.”

“Of course.  They are still big in computer repair.  Not as big as back then.”

“Nope.  I used it to tackle that problem and make a ton of money.  Since we already had the fixes, we could do it faster and get more contracts.  Once 2001 came I pretty much stepped back and sold the thing. Now it is just a shell of its former self, but it did what I needed it too.  The point is, I found a problem that was huge, figured out how to take it on and profit, and then did it. Computers are my space though, now I am looking to you to figure out yours.”

“Well give me a week or two to do some research.  Then I will come to you and see what we can do to get ready.”

“Sounds like a plan.  Now pass that fried rice.”

Emporium of Awesome – 5

CHAPTER FIVE – MY AGENT

May 1976 – New York City, New York

A younger man in an Air Force uniform is in the waiting room of Robert Patterson, Esq.  Business was slow today, but Robert was making people wait anyway. He wanted them to think he was busy.  It was finally time to talk to the sole person in his office, besides himself and his secretary. He figured the man was here for a power of Attorney or a will or something simple.

“He will see you now,” the secretary said from behind her desk as she hung up the phone.

Todd Matherson stood up and grabbed the briefcase that he had brought with him.  He smiled at the lady as she directed him to a door to his left. He opened it and entered.  Behind the desk in the office sat Mr. Patterson, a middle age mad who was losing a little of the top while gaining a bit in the middle.  He stood and offered his hand. Todd shook it then took the seat he was offered.

“How can I help you today young man?”

“How trustworthy are you?”

“Excuse me?”

“I am looking for someone who I can trust implicitly and who can follow instructions.”

“Well if you are worried about anything that we discuss it is covered under privilege.”

“I am well aware of the law Mr. Patterson.  I am asking about the ability to do as one is told and not asking any questions.”

“I don’t like where this is going, I would never partake in anything illegal.”

“I never said what I wanted was illegal.  I will be blunt then. How would you like to do as little as possible and make a ton of money?”

“Who wouldn’t?”

“The problem is that most people eventually start to ask questions.  Would you have that problem?”

“I think we are done here.”

Todd stood up and placed the briefcase on Mr. Patterson’s deck and opened it.  The lawyer stared in disbelief. The case easily contained $25,000. “Now that I have your attention, can we get down to business?”

“Um,” Patterson adjusted his tie. “I don’t see why not.”

“I understand you have a practice to run, so I won’t demand too much from you for now.  I will keep it simple for now too, so both of us can figure out if we can trust each other.  For you, to see that I am serious, for me to see if you can do as you are told.”

“What is the money for?”

“Your retainer.  I will offer you work for the next six months.  Each transaction after the first will see you paid for it.  This will cover the first.”

“What are these transactions you want me to do?”

Todd pulls a letter from his pocket and places it on the desk.  “In the envelope is a set of days and times that you need to be here.  On those days you will receive additional instructions to execute. Being a finance lawyer, you know people and procedures for most of the actions that will be requested.  Those that you do not, you will be instructed to learn or outsource to people who can.”

“Why not just give me the instructions direct?”

“Plausible deniability for everyone involved.  In addition I have documents here for you to sign.  I took the liberty of having a third party draft these.”  Todd took some papers from the back of the brief case and handed them to Robert.  He took them and read through them.

“These are very detailed.”

“Yes they are.  Even if I already trusted you I would still have these drawn up.  I can’t take any chances.”

“I understand.”

“And since you will not get instructions until they are to be handled, you can claim ignorance if anything does happen.  But no one should ever find out as long as you say nothing.”

“I would like to go over these if you don’t mind.”

“I understand.”  Todd stood up, then took $10,000 from the case and put it on the desk.  “I will return tomorrow to see if we have a deal then. I will also say this now, I am aware of inflation and cost of living.  So right off the bat don’t get greedy on me.”

The next day Todd returned.  The secretary was not there; Robert was at the front desk waiting for him.  “Mr. Matherson, I have been looking forward to your return.”

“Is everything in order then?”

“I see no reason that I can’t do what you need me too.”

“Good.”  Todd hands Mr. Patterson the briefcase.  “In there you will find a bankbook with the funds to execute the first round of directives.”  Todd reached in his pocket and hands Robert two cards.

“What are these?”

“The first is the card of the accounting firm you are to use.  They will be alerted to how much you have been instructed to invest and where.  They also receive the bank records. Any deviation will be a breach of contract.  The second is a piece of real estate that I suggest you buy.”

“I am not a real estate guy.”

“I have it on good authority that it will go for sale on the cheap, within a year you can flip it for ten times the buying price today.  If you don’t want it, then I will grab it. Besides I tossed a little extra in here so you could afford it.”

“Where does an Air Force Sergeant get……..”

Todd looked at him sternly for a moment.  “What was that?”

“Oh nothing.  I am still getting used to keeping my thoughts to myself.”

“I hope for both our sakes that you learn it fast.  Don’t you have something for me?”

Mr. Patterson hands Todd an envelope with the signed documents.  “There you are.”

“Thank you.  Now for starters, you need to keep your eyes on a new Index fund starting and get in on HBO.”

“That new satellite company?  That is a fad.”

“Trust me it is worth it.  You will receive more specific instructions soon.”

“When can I expect you again?”

“I am not sure.  I will stop in from time to time.  Like I said we will see how you do over the next few months and then go from there.”

Of course Todd already knew that Patterson would check out and do just fine.  It was in fact his fifth attorney. After each initial meeting with each lawyer he would jump back to the present and know immediately if they screwed him over.  Mr. Patterson would not only keep his mouth shut, but would do far better than Todd could have imagined.

Emporium of Awesome – 4

CHAPTER FOUR – ID THEFT

“So you went back and did two years in the Air Force?” James asked.

“Yup.”

“Why was that, I mean I get the appeal, work on the latest tech of 40 years ago, but come on it seems a bit beneath you.”

“There is more to it than that.  So before I went back I did my homework as usual.  I looked for someone I could replace.”

“Replace?”

“Yeah.  I was 30 when I went back, so I needed someone that was born between 1950 and 1955.”

“You thought you could pass for 20 to 25?”

“Well sure, I look young for my age.  Anyway, they also needed to have died before I was born.  I was also looking for it in a rural area with, shall we say poor record keeping.  Needless to say I found what I was looking for. I went back to just after my birth and set up my new identity.”

“And you found someone named Todd Matherson.”

“Exactly.  He was 15 when he and his parents were killed in a car accident.  They lived in rural Iowa, well all of Iowa was rural. I got a copy of his birth certificate and social security info.  He was born in 1953, died in 1968. Since no records were digital and it was so far away, I just set up shop in Chicago for a couple of months as him and laid some ground work.  I also forged a few things and made sure they was where a paper trail if anyone went looking.”

“How did you manage that?”

“You would be amazed at what you can do with a modern laptop and printer in the mid nineteen-seventies.  I just did what I needed, jumped back to drop off my stuff and went back.”

“So not to pollute the time line.  Why Chicago though? Then again, why not? I assume you can go anywhere.”

“No, I can only go back in time to the place I am at when I go.  This isn’t like the shows that let them go anyplace as well as anytime.  I ain’t Doctor Who. No, I procured a place that I used as basically my base for all those years, where I could keep stuff whenever I went back.”

“Where is that?”

“You’re sitting in it.”

“Really?  I thought you had this place built like a couple of years ago.”

“I did, well I rebuilt.  The basement is the same though.  Before the shop I had a smaller building.  I knew this property would be prime real estate someday, so I grabbed it for cheap back in 77 when I got out of the Air Force, well my agent did anyway.”

“Your Agent?”

“Yeah, I had a guy.  Do you think I sat back and ran all of this myself?  Hell no, I had some people working for me.”

“I didn’t think the Air Force paid that well back then.”

“They didn’t.  In fact, it sucked.  I managed to get some bills from that era before I went back then I Back to the Future IIed it.  I was able to make a few bets and build from there. Why do you think I wanted to be stationed by Vegas when I was in?”

“To make the big bucks.”

“Between regular trips to Vegas and vacations to the Sci Fi and Computer conventions and events in California I was getting to know people that would be the players of the industry.  I am sure you know where this goes from here.”

“I think so.  But I have to ask an obvious…..”

“Of course I saw it.  I managed to get to know a few of the guys from the effects crew, so I was able to sneak into the premier.  I mean it might seem better in digital surround sound. But being with the cast in that theater when Star Wars opened was the balls man.”

“I am so jealous right now,” James said as he pulled out his wallet.  “Our food should be here soon.” He checked his phone as is gave a notification, the driver was at the front of the shop.  The pair of men walked to the door. James unlocked it and let the delivery guy in. He inspected the food and then handed the guy the money and a $20 tip.

“Thanks man,” the driver said.

“No problem, I am having a great night so I thought you should too.”

The delivery guy nodded and left.  James locked the door behind him. The two moved to the play area where customers usually played games.  James divvied up the food and they started to eat. “So why did you decide to tell me all of this now?” James asked between bites of sweet and sour pork.

“Because it is time to move into the next phase of my plan.”

“Which is?”

“I have no idea.  I just know in this day and age, I can’t keep up the Todd Matherson charade much longer, so I decided to end it.  I also figured I am in a good place right now, so why not start using this thing to have some fun. Thus I am telling you.”

“Do you plan on taking me to the days of old to relive the best of times?”

“Sure.  Which until recently I didn’t know if I even could.”

“As in taking people with you?”

“Exactly.  I always knew I couldn’t take that much with me, a backpack with some stuff in it, a box if I held it.  I’ve been tinkering with it for a while now and tested it with a big dog lately. It was a success.”

“I hate to think what happened to your earlier tests.”

“Nothing really, I didn’t try it until I was pretty certain that it would work.  I have a lot more going on as well. The amount of research I have conducted is insane as well.”

“I thought you went back to build up your fortune?”

“Well yeah, but since I don’t age when I go back, I’ve also done things like just go back 10 years and researched for 2 to 5 years a couple of times.  Think about it, researching as much as you want while not aging. Then return to the present like nothing happened.”

“This a basement thing again?”

“Yes and no, I have another place I tinker at as well.  I have to keep a little notebook to track where and when I have been.  That whole erase time thing if I touch myself.”

“Doesn’t someone think highly of themselves?”

Tommy pondered a moment, then realized what his previous words sounded like.  “You know what I mean smartass. The Time Cop thing. You come into contact with another version of yourself in another time and you cancel each other out.  I don’t know if it creates a paradox or wipes time. Not eager to find out either.”

Emporium of Awesome – Three

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CHAPTER THREE – AIR FORCE

NOVEMBER 1974, Chicago, Il

An Air Force recruiter is sitting at his desk doing paper work.  There is a knock at his office door. He looks up to see a man in his early to mid-twenties standing there.  “May I help you?”

“I hope so, I was looking to join up.”

“Well that’s what I am here for.  Have a seat and let’s see what we can do.”  Tech Sergeant Allen was glad someone came in, he was falling short of his quota this month.  Even though Vietnam was over the fall out with the youth of the country was making it hard to get bodies.  Especially in urban areas. Though Chicago wasn’t as bad as the New England area and California, he still had to go out a lot to try and get leads.

“I hear you guys are starting to offer more jobs with computers?” the potential recruit asked.

“Well yes, we’re the more current branch with technology.  You might even get one of those jobs. I hope you understand I can’t promise you anything until after we have you take a few tests though.”

“I understand.”

“So what is your name?”

“Todd Matherson.”

“Well okay there Todd, when were you wanting to ship, that is if you pass all of the tests.”

“I can leave as soon as you can get me to basic.”

The next week had Todd running around Chicago to the processing center to take tests and getting all kinds of physical tests.  Sergeant Allen was impressed with Todd’s results. He scored nearly perfect on all of the batteries they gave him, except mechanical.  Within seven days he had all of the paperwork in order and offered Todd a contract with a guaranteed job working with computers.

Todd arrived in Texas for his Air Force basic training in early December.  It was hard for him to start, he wasn’t in the best of physical condition. Even though he had been cleared healthy, he barely passed the fitness test to get in.  A little extra weight wasn’t even the problem, the fact he had never done any real activity in his life was. Now though he was making up for lost time.

That was the hardest part.  The rest was cake. Even learning to drill and put on a uniform.  He had always loved sci fi and wearing a uniform was part of it in a way.  The academics were so easy he soon found himself at the top of his class. His progress in running and pushups was impressed his instructors.  Which was understandable given the regiment he was on. The real problem with him being at the top was that it called attention to him. This was the seventies after all, sure it wasn’t the Marines, but it was still hard, especially for a kid who had not even tried in PE.

His instructors were not that hard on him for the most part, but when something did go wrong, it could get bad.  There were no rules against laying hands on, or if there were no one seemed to care. The eight-week course was the hardest thing he had ever done.  But once it was over he earned a promotion for finishing on top. Then he was off to his job training. He landed 51050 Computer Systems Technician. Which is what he wanted from the start.  The training was a joke to him. He had a graduate degree in computers that hadn’t even been invented yet. So another promotion was granted to Todd when he graduated from here as well.

Because he graduated at the top of both his basic and job schools he was able to choose his duty station.  He got as close to Las Vegas as he could. He spent the next two years there, making a sizable amount on the side playing the tables and events at the Casino’s.  Eventually his time ended, his two years were up. He had been good at his job, they offered him two promotions to stay in. But he declined. He had gotten what he wanted, the legitimacy of his existence.

It was one thing to have a birth certificate and a social security number, but people could always dig deeper.  If one had a distinguished military career, even a short one, behind them, then people would usually stop there.  Todd Matherson had existed before, then stopped, but now he was among the living once again thanks to Tommy Reynolds.

Emporium of Awesome – Two

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CHAPTER TWO – PROOF

James just sat there with a puzzled look on his face for several moments before he spoke.  “Dude, I know losing your idol must be hard, but this is borderline a sick joke.”

“If it wasn’t true I wouldn’t say anything like this.”

“I mean even if it is true, I am sure you know what I am going to ask next.”

“You are going to want me to prove it of course.”

“It’s like you are a mind reader.”

“Okay, I guess I could do a little magic.”  Tommy moved to the back of the room near a window.  “I am going to stand here for a few minutes, then I will come through the door and tell you hi.”  James sat there. And sat. He knew the joke was up.

James turned to Tommy.  “Well you almost had me there for a ……..”

“Hi.”  James turned to the door and saw Tommy standing there.  Wearing the same clothes. He turned back to the corner and saw Tommy there as well.  He kept going back and forth between the two Tommys until he almost had whiplash. After a few minutes the new Tommy looked at the real Tommy and nodded.  Then he left the room.

“Well I have to go now,” Tommy said.

“Where?” James asked.

“Where do you think?  I have to go back in time so I can walk into the room and say hi.  The Tommy over there will take my place here.”

“But what about you.”

“We have started a loop.  I’ve only done this once before.  He is me, just from the future.”

“From when?”

“I would say about 5 minutes from now.  That is about how long it will take for me to get back to when he got here.”

“So he becomes you then?”

“He is me, try to keep up.  We have watched enough time travel shows to have a basic understanding of how this works.  But I have to go now.” Tommy left the room. After a couple of minutes he came back. “Well he’s off.”

“Who?”

“Past me.  He went back to say hi to you.  I am here though. The point is though that I had to prove to you that I actually had a time machine.”

“And now I believe you. But I can’t stop thinking that this you isn’t my you.”

“Yeah, it can get confusing.  Temporal mechanics and all. Needless to say I invented the damn thing and from time to time it still throws me for a curb.”

“Well since it is apparent that you have invented a time machine then why…….”

“Just stop there.  I will try to get a couple of the disclaimers out of the way.  I assume the first is why haven’t I stopped all the big things in the past.”  James nodded as he said this. “Contrary to popular belief there is only so much that one person can do, even with the knowledge of the past.  Second, how do you know I haven’t stopped the worst things? I mean if I had changed anything, you wouldn’t know about it, only I would.”

“That is a good point, so did you change anything like that?”

“Um, no.  The first major problem is that I can’t go back farther than I existed.  If I did I would cease to exist from that point on. It is weird, I don’t know why, it just is.”

“How did…..”

“I figure that out?  Sure, valid point. I tried various things.  Eggs, bugs, even a puppy. I would send them back before they were conceived.  All I got was a pile of slop. Sounds kind of vile, in the case of the puppy, but I did what I had to do to make sure I wasn’t gonna end up the same way.  So anything prior to 1974 is off limits to me.”

“There are plenty of things that you might have been able to stop though.”

“Yes sir, and like I said earlier, this wasn’t my first loop with two of me.  I actually did go back and stop an event. When I returned to the current time I found out things were far worse.  Then I had to go back and tell myself not to change it. It led to me deciding to stick to my original plans.”

“Which were?”

“Keeping a low profile and doing what I had to and then getting out.  That isn’t to say that I didn’t do any meddling.”

“Such as?”

Tommy pointed to the top of James desk at an item.  James grabbed it, a collector’s edition of the Firefly television series on Blue Ray.  “What if I told in my original timeline that show only got a 14-episode season and a movie?”

James looked at his box set, it read The complete series, all 110 episodes from 5 seasons and the Movie Trilogy.  “That seems like a real loss man. This show was epic. Most think it is one of the best, I mean what if the SfyFy channel didn’t pick it up after Fox screwed it?”

“Nope, it died.  The point being that was something I could do, and I did.”

“Well it helped everyone’s careers I hope.”

“Let’s just say we didn’t get stuck with eight seasons of Castle.”

“Of what?”

“Never mind, we got the better deal in this timeline, the point is that I did some things that wouldn’t alter the timeline too much.  Even if they did it wasn’t going to do any damage.”

“So why tell me all of this now?” James asked.

“It has been building to this for forty years.  Todd Matherson only died when I wanted him too. I feel my position is now where it needs to be to take on the next part of my plan.”

“What are you?  Some evil overlord now?  Are you bent on world domination?”

“Not quite, but let’s just say the things I couldn’t change in the past to make things better I can do something about now.”

“Well that was as clear as mud.”

“Do you think I talked to you all those times about the market and the history of it all for my health?”

“I thought you really wanted to know that stuff.”

“I did.”

“Holy shit!!” James yelled.  “You wanted the historical data so you could go back and get in on the ground floor.  And I thought you really gave a shit about my job. That means you have had this damn machine for over 15 years!!”

“No I haven’t.  I was working on it for a while.  But the closer I got to finishing it the more a plan developed in my head.  Since you were a trader at the time and had access to all the historical data, I figured, why not.”

“There was google, even 15 years ago.”

“I know, but you had better access and it gave me a reason to reach out to you.  I knew that when the time came that I would need your expertise to help me with my modern day plans.  That is why I hired you and am now letting you in on the secret.”

“Well before we go any further, I want to know it all.  The details, the plans, all of it. If you need my help, then I have to be all in.”

“I get that, and I am willing to tell you it all.  There is a lot though, and I might skip over some. I have spent over 20 years in the past.”

James looked Tommy up and down.  Then he did it again. “You certainly are aging well then.”

“Right?  What I found was that during my excursions into the past I didn’t age, at least not like people from that time.  I would always have the return device on me. If it was that, or me or whatever, I was outside the time I was visiting, therefore I didn’t age like them.  To be honest, I have no idea why I didn’t. This all just sounds good and is just theoretical. The bottom line is I didn’t.”

“Good enough for me.  So should we order some food and drinks, cause you have some tales to tell.”  Tommy nodded and James reached for his phone.

Emporium of Awesome – Chapter One

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CHAPTER ONE – INTRO

James had been working for his best friend Tommy for just over three years now at his shop.  The Emporium of Awesome was a Geeks paradise. Tommy had a knack for not only finding older collectibles of pop culture past, but in the best of conditions and at very reasonable prices.  He was so good at it that people would just tell him what they wanted and how much they were willing to pay and he would go on the hunt.

The day had ended and James had just finished locking up the front doors of the Emporium.  It was a nice place by most standards, especially those of a hobby/game shop. At two stories is was a large structure in and of itself.  The fact that it housed a large nerd habitat was a bonus. He turned and walked past the large row of counters and display cases that lined the front of the building, only breaking for the doors and the restrooms in a far corner.

He made his way towards the center, where the only separate room stood, aside from rooms on the East side for storage.  The retail area looked like chaos but was actually quite organized. Tommy had done a lot of research on retail layout. It was set up based on genre, that meant the old and new things were together.  Sci Fi, Fantasy, Video games, whatever it was, it was next to its brethren. Almost 4000 square feet was designated to the array of merchandise, and in some spots almost all twelve feet to the ceiling was full as well.

More than once each day a sales associate had to bring the ladder out to accommodate a customer’s desire to get some obscure piece that was high up.  Even Andre the Giant would have a hard time getting the authentic WWF Heavyweight Belt that was hanging from the ceiling in a glass case. They had joked on several occasions that they should clear out the area and have an actual ladder match for it.  But the price said no, as it was signed by over a dozen greats who had actually held the title.

James reached the structure in the middle.  It was the small diner Tommy had installed to cater to the mobs that frequented their establishment for events.  Hungry geeks could get restless and it was a good revenue stream. The usual prepackaged food was fine, but Tommy wanted to stand apart so he had an actual kitchen put in and hired a real cook.  No one along the lines of Gordan Ramsey, but someone who could make damn good burgers and other comfort foods.

James entered the diner, which could seat just over twenty in the dining space.  He went behind the counter and grabbed a couple of beverages from the cooler. He had a long night ahead of him.  It was the end of the month and he had to do the books. His favorite time. The exit at the back of the kitchen led him to the area where all the wargamers played their chosen battles.  To his right was a large area for the card gamers to throw down, at its peak it could hold one hundred of them.

That was one reason that he brought James on, to do the actual day to day stuff.  James had no problem with it. Tommy was good at the hunt and it took a while to do just that, or so James assumed.  So he ran the actual store and corresponded with the customers to hand off the request off to his boss so he could go forth and find the treasures in the world.

It wasn’t the most glamorous job in the world, but the pay was good and he had benefits, which was unusual for a job at basically an oversized game shop but he wasn’t complaining.   There was a lot of stuff going on that James didn’t really understand though. Then again, he came on kind of late in the game. Tommy had started the business about ten years earlier as a seller on ebay, then moved to the internet where he exploded.

Then he got a small area to keep his stuff and ship from.  He had added the storefront just over five years ago and was doing very well.  James’s job was to run the store and ship items out all over the world to people that wanted the nerdy items of yesteryear.  They really didn’t deal in newer items, since Tommy didn’t really see them as collectible or worth the effort since all the other shops in the world had access to them as well.  With no room to negotiate price he felt it was better to stay with the older stuff as long as he could find it.

They were current with a lot of the games though.  TSR’s Dungeon’s and Dragon’s was the top RPG and had been running on its 3rd edition from 2001.  The Open gaming license idea was brilliant and a whole sub-industry of companies had started around it.  Magic the Gathering was still huge as well. The start up Wizards of the Coast had a nice robust program for stores that carried their product.  Both of the men were fans of the game and had picked it up shortly after it had come out. James had taken a few years off when he went to college, but Tommy had given him a playset of everything when he came to work for him.

It seemed Tommy had done well for himself in the realm of geek.  He was also a Nerd though. The two had known each other almost forty years.  They had grown up living next to each other and even gone to school for a few years.  That all changed one day when Tommy’s parents decided to let him skip a grade. They still hung out all the time after school though.  This lasted a couple of years before Tommy ended up going to some magnet school for smart kids. He graduated high school at 16 and went to college.

They still kept in touch and hung out a lot when he was home from school, which wasn’t often though since he went all year long.  So just his breaks. Tommy went on to graduate school for computer stuff at 19, but then they lost touch. James had lost track of him for a few years after that as he finished school and went to college to get a business degree.  He ended up teaching though when his aspirations to take over Wall Street didn’t manifest though.

In truth he did have a bit of success, but the high stress level was not his thing.  So h had packed it in and moved back home to manage a small branch of a local bank. It wasn’t fancy, but it paid the bills and wasn’t going to give him a heart attack anytime soon.  It was around that time that he found Tommy on social media and they began to reconnect. Tommy was out on the West Coast doing freelance work for some of the newer tech companies as a fixer.  He would come in when they were stuck on projects and help them work through it.

He had been offered a number of nice jobs but said he liked working as a tech gun for hire.  It made him feel important. But he was getting sick of it. A couple of years after that he moved back home.  It was the same time that he decided he needed a home base to operate his growing online enterprise. From there they hooked back up in real life and that led to James getting hired.  It was nice actually. The two of them spent many a night sitting around being nostalgic for the past and playing games way to late over a couple of beers.

The job wasn’t that difficult, but there was a lot going on, not to mention he oversaw a staff of about twelve.  That might seem like a lot for a game store/comic store, but they did a lot of business online, so they had 5 people in the warehouse shipping alone.  An IT guy to keep up the site, two that listed things in the system and four that worked the actual store. The facility itself was two stories. The store area was almost 10,000 square feet, and half of that was dedicated to display space for all the regular product.  Play space made up the rest. Their events were usually large. The daily games had a lot of people too, but they ran about half a dozen events a day.

Tommy believed in large payouts so they usually took a loss on the daily events, and especially the big ones.  His philosophy was simple though, take a loss on the events and the people will love you and do most of their shopping there.  Not to mention they would be in the place for a while and Tommy had added a small café to the place, so all the snacks and drinks more than made up for any losses they incurred.

Most of the income came from online though, or the rare occasion that someone came in and picked up one of the high-ticket items.  Tommy usually had a few display cases filled with top notch nerd relics. He hunted for the requests that he received, but he also found good deals all the time as well and showcased them in the store for all to gawk over.  There had been much debate over the years as to what his own personal collection might look like. It was also usually on James mind, as he had never seen it. The second story of the building was apartments, where Tommy and James both lived, and James knew that there wasn’t a lot of room in any of the units for a huge collection.

What he did know was that aside from the additional 10,000 square foot warehouse attached to the place, which Tommy had custom built to his own specs, there was a basement as well.  The thing was, no one was allowed down there and the door had more locks than the bank he used to work at. It was either a huge nerd collection, a CIA black site, or Nuclear Silo. But it was where Tommy spent a lot of his time when he was there.  In any case the business was thriving and James wasn’t going to complain.

It was nice to work there and he was even getting a bit more active socially than he had been before.  There had been plenty of girlfriends over the years, but they were mostly in the circles that he traveled, which until he worked here had been in finance.  They were nice, but there was always something missing. He grew up a nerd and still loved all the things that he did as a kid, plus so much more. But he wanted that same love of geekdom in anyone he was with.

Sure they had some fandom in common with him like a trekkie or a star wars fan, but he wanted them to like them all, just like him.  Maybe his standards were too high, or he was just scared to end up like his parents. Amanda had started coming to the shop within the last six months.  She was a graduate student at one of the local colleges. She was getting her Masters of Fine Arts there. She wanted to be a writer, to be more exact a Sci-Fi writer.  That caught James’s attention as soon as he heard it.

Later this night they were supposed to go out on their first date.  He was hurrying to get all the paperwork done so that he would have time to get ready.  He would even if he took his normal amount of time, but he wanted to make sure he looked his best.  He felt this was the one. At least he thought so, or hoped so. In any case he didn’t want to blow it because of something stupid like BO.  He was wrapping up the ordering for the week when a knock came at the door. It was Tommy.

“What’s up boss?” James said.

“I told you not to call me that.”

“I know, but I like to rub ya the wrong way from time to time.”

“I have some bad news.”

James paused a moment to assess the look on his friend’s face to make sure he was being serious.  He saw nothing to indicate he wasn’t. His stomach started to kick in with butterflies. Tommy was never too serious, he was a jovial guy.  A little bigger than he should be, but always in good spirits. When he said something was bad news the only thing James could do was prepare for the worst.  “What is it?”

Tommy walked over to the desk and places an article that had been clipped from the paper on it.  James picked it up and looked:

SILICON VALLEY PIONEER TODD MATHERSON DEAD AT 74

Inside his mind, James breathed a sigh of relief.  Not that he didn’t have a twinge of sadness at the news, but it wasn’t really that bad.  “I’m sorry man.”

“Well he was getting older, it was bound to happen.”

Todd Matherson had been Tommy’s idol from an early age.  The man was a legend in the tech industry. Rumor had it he attended Cal Tech in the late 70s and got his PhD in computers in less than two years.  He had been given his BS when, in a gathering of all the computer department, he built a state of the art system (at the time) in front of them and then proceeded to give the University the patent.  He just asked them to award a scholarship to 5 up and coming computer majors each year and let him have the chance to hire them first when they graduated. The school agreed and netted over one billion dollars from the tech before the patent expired.

There were many more stories about the man through the years as well, he always seemed to be at the right place at the same time.  James quickly scanned the rest of the obit before looking back at Tommy. “It says here he had no family. That is kind of sad, a man that accomplished.  No picture though, that is weird.”

“Yeah, there are no known pictures of the man.  I was actually wondering if you wanted to join me for the funeral.”

James looked at him oddly.  Had Tommy reached out and befriended the old genius? “I guess, I mean I know he was your idol and all.”

“He was more than that.”

“A mentor?”

“This may sound weird and totally out there, but he was actually me, or more like I was him.  I invented Todd back in 1974 and created his legacy.”

James took another moment to see if Tommy was being serious.  No signs that he wasn’t. But he must be. Todd Matherson was born in 1953, Tommy in 1974.  There was no way…….

“Before you even ask, yes I invented a time machine and used it to do what I just said.”