All Just a Little Bit of History Repeating: Part Two
I am trapped thirty years in Neopia’s past, Jennings wrote. With no one I know, and no one who knows me. It’s as if everything I’ve have achieved in the past few years has been erased, and I am now just another nameless person in the city... as I was when I arrived from Shenkuu in the first place. It is a curious feeling, though not one I wish to experience for long. My only hope is Professor Moriarty Bungle, the man who sent me here. Judging from his apparent age when I met him, he must be alive in this time period, and hopefully still working at the Museum.
Jennings smiled at the green Bruce on the desk at the National Neopian Museum. It was strange, he had met her once before... but then she had been an elderly and portly woman who had spent more time sleeping than working. But this version was slim and middle aged, and considerably more alert.
“Yes?” she asked impatiently, indicating her attitude hadn’t changed even if her appearance had.
“I’m looking for the Magical Research Department,” Jennings supplied.
The Bruce looked at him critically. “You are, are you?”
“Yes,” Jennings replied. “Is there some problem with that? You do have a Magical Research Department, don’t you?”
“Oh, we have one,” the Bruce told him. “Just doesn’t have many visitors is all. Still, if you insist, it’s down the hall on the right. Follow the stairs all the way down.”
“Thank you.” Jennings smiled.
“Your funeral,” the Bruce added under her breath as he walked away.
Jennings found the dusty staircase heading down, just as she had said, though just how far the spiral staircase went down she had failed to mention. Several minutes later he reached the bottom, and a door covered in cobwebs. Beneath the dust, Jennings could make out a plaque saying, ‘Department of Academic Technomancy’.
Jennings pushed open the door, which made a bone-chilling creak, stirring the receptionist within. The Kau was just as caked in cobwebs as the door had been, and he reached for an ear trumpet before engaging Jennings in conversation.
“Can... I help you?” he asked in a voice that hadn’t seen use in years.
Moriarty hadn’t been lying when he said they didn’t get out much.
“Yes,” Jennings answered. “I’d like to speak with the Head of Research.”
“It is a bit nippy in here, I agree.” The Kau nodded.
Jennings sighed, and shouted, “The Head of Research! Moriarty Bungle!”
The Kau frowned. “Bungle? He’s only a junior research assistant. You want Professor Thornpipe, he’s Head of Research.”
Jennings paused. The Bungle he had met had seemed over a hundred; he doubted that he was only a research assistant, even thirty years in the past. Still, Jennings knew nothing about this place, so he consented.
The Kau let him at an elderly pace through the corridors of the research department. Although the rest of the Museum was hardly up to modern standards, the cellars were almost stuck in a time warp. There were no electric lights down there, but burning torches instead. The countless research rooms seemed more like parts of an ancient castle than any Neopia Central building.
At last the Kau stopped outside a door that looked just as under-used as the others and knocked gently. After a muffled voice from within bade him to enter, the Kau pushed the door open to reveal the study within. A camouflage Draik who looked even older than the Kau sat behind a desk.
“Someone to see you, sir,” the Kau announced.
With some difficulty, the Draik emerged from behind the desk and offered Jennings a hand. “Professor Alvare Thornpipe, Head of Magical Research.”
Jennings shook the Draik’s hand, staring curiously into the wizard’s old eyes. Here was Alvare Thornpipe, right before Jennings’s eyes – by all rights, it would be doing the world a favour to kill him right now. Thornpipe was with a doubt the most prolific and troublesome magical inventor the world had ever seen. Spectacular failures rolled from his mind like water down a stream, including such contraptions as the Twelve Ways, a perpetually jammed traffic junction, and the Qasalan Expellibox, designed without an operating manual. In the time period Jennings had left, Thornpipe was dead and buried, being widely known as one of the most insane wizards on the planet at the time of his death.
The Kau behind Jennings chuckled, “He thought young Bungle was the Head of Research!”
Thornpipe frowned beneath his beard, which seemed to be some sort of badge of office. “Bungle shall be head of this department over my dead body. Far too foolhardy. No, someone like Volgan would be much better suited to the job, I think.”
Jennings resisted making a comment. In many ways, Thornpipe had hit the nail right on the head.
The Kau excused himself to return to his desk, leaving the two alone.
“How can I help you, Mr..?”
“Jennings,” the Krawk answered. “To be honest, Professor I am not sure if you will be able to help me... I’ve only come because, well, I don’t know where else to go.”
“And your problem is?”
Jennings took a deep breath, aware that what he was about to say sounded silly. “I am... from the future, Professor.”
Thornpipe inclined his head.
“Thirty years in the future,” Jennings added. “I came here as the unintended consequence of an experiment into what I now believe to be time travel by the Head of Magical Research in my time.”
“...Moriarty Bungle?” Thornpipe frowned.
Thornpipe clasped his hand to his forehead. “Great Scott! They let Bungle be the Head of Research!? Standards must really be slipping.”
Thornpipe retreated to his desk and retrieved a small flashlight-like device which he proceeded to shine in Jennings’s eyes. Eventually he gasped and drew back.
“Your Bronheim reading is off the scale!”
“Is that good or bad?” Jennings asked.
“I’m not sure...” Thornpipe confessed. “But it can only happen, hypothetically speaking, if one were to travel through time... it appears you are telling the truth, Mr. Jennings.”
“Yes, it would appear so,” Jennings replied flatly. “You wouldn’t be able to send me back, by any chance?”
“Send you back!?” Thornpipe gasped excitedly, grabbing Jennings by the arms. “Send you back!? Don’t you understand what an important scientific discovery this is!? Why, it completely rewrites temporal theories!”
Thornpipe gasped again, drawing back from Jennings in horror, “Oh... oh no.”
Jennings raised an eyebrow.
Thornpipe darted forwards again and grabbed Jennings’s hands. “What have you done since getting here!? Name every single thing!”
He darted back to his desk and grabbed some paper, poising to write a list.
“I... is it important?” Jennings asked.
“Gravely!” Thornpipe told him.
“Well...” Jennings considered. “I went to the Docklands, but found the building there in my time wasn’t there... went through the Marketplace, bought a copy of the Neopian Times, and then came here.”
“Great Scott!” Thornpipe gasped, grabbing his forehead again. “These actions, though minor now, may snowball over the next thirty years and result in a completely different Neopia Central of the future! You may have irreversibly changed the timeline, Mr. Jennings!”
“Ah,” Jennings replied helpfully. “That may explain this.”
Jennings provided the newspaper he had purchased.
“You will see from the front page article that Judge Irons has recently arrested a number of Thieves Guild operatives in the city,” Jennings explained. “You will note how it says that the Judge’s popularity is through the roof in the city, and crime in areas outside the Docklands is at an all time low.”
“Yes, I see that,” Thornpipe agreed.
“It is a curious thing, Professor, but from what little I know of Neopia Central thirty years ago, Judge Irons was almost universally disliked. In fact, crime was at an all time high, and the Judge was removed from office soon after in a rather unsightly revolt that became known as the Night of the Flaming Torches.”
Thornpipe took a monocle from his desk and read the article critically, “Interesting... you said what little you know of the history, but surely you, or rather your younger self, is somewhere in the city? You certainly look older than thirty. You should remember this.”
“I am originally from Shenkuu,” Jennings told him.
“Shen-where?” Thornpipe frowned.
Jennings hesitated. This was another factor he had not acknowledged. Thirty years in the past, Neopia was a much smaller place. Whilst places like Moltara and Shenkuu still existed, Neopia Central lived in isolation, not even knowing of the Lost Desert beyond the Haunted Woods. Shenkuu wouldn’t be discovered by modern day Neopia Central citizens until Y8.
“A distant land,” Jennings corrected himself. “Beyond the Haunted Woods.”
“There are lands beyond the Haunted Woods?” Thornpipe asked in amazement, before clasping his hand over his mouth. “Even my knowing this information is enough to jeopardise the future!”
“We must take that chance, Professor,” Jennings told him. “You are all I have. Now, about Judge Irons.”
“This paper was printed before you arrived, Mr. Jennings,” Thornpipe pointed out. “There’s no way you could have altered it. Whatever is happening is happening because it is meant to happen.”
“So Judge Irons will face a sudden drop in popularity?” Jennings questioned. “There’s no one that could alter the city that quickly.”
Though internally, he added, Aside from me.
Thornpipe turned away to lean on his desk. “It is possible, Mr. Jennings, that your being here will cause that to happen. There is an alternate theory of time travel, based around the concept of the Arrow of Time, one stating that time cannot be changed.”
“Fate, you mean?”
Thornpipe laughed. “I am a man of science, Mr. Jennings. Fate is not something I would entertain. Though if you were to make such changes... it would be a gamble. There’s no way to know if we would be repairing or damaging the timeline until it was too late.”
“We must take that chance, Professor.” Jennings considered. “Are you confident you will be able to return me to my own time?”
“Well, seeing as you are here, the physics of it must be sound,” Thornpipe answered. “But I will need time to develop a device capable of sending you back... or rather, forward.”
“Good, I will need time to put things back how they should be,” Jennings agreed. “Thank you for your time, Professor.”
“Wait!” Thornpipe called out. “Mr. Jennings, you may meet people in the city, people you know in your time. It’s best that you disguise yourself, and take on a pseudonym to avoid suspicion when you return to your time.”
Jennings smiled. Given that Mr. Jennings himself was an alias, it wouldn’t be difficult to create another.
To be continued...