“Look, listen to me, I am not going through this same conversation again!”
“That’s entirely the point, we haven’t said anything like this to each other before.”
“That’s what you think.”
This debate, if it could charitably be called that, was taking place inside a high level board room of Chronos Industries headquarters on Luna, although it was more like a verbal sparring match that was quickly becoming no holds barred. At the head of the meeting table, around which countless capitalistic covens took place, sat the company’s CEO and patriarch Jacob Winters. Standing to his right, exasperated and red faced from trying to persuade the galaxy’s wealthiest man into a new line of thinking, was Patricia Collins. She was Jacob’s descendant, and a chasm of three and a half centuries separated them.
“Why, grandfather, why do you keep doing this to yourself?” Patricia said darkly as she glowered at Jacob. He was sat in the chair with his feet resting on the table, knowing full well he owned the place and could damn well do what he liked with it.
“There are over half a dozen uses of the “great” you missed there Patricia.” Jacob said with a smug grin on his face as he lit up a cigarette, a markedly more expensive past time on Luna than on Earth given oxygen was at a premium.
Patricia’s hands twitched like she was going to slap the cigarette out of Jacob’s hand, yet despite the strong desire to do so she found a modicum of restraint and merely glared at him instead. Her “relation” had all the attitudes of a crotchety old person for whom the golden era of their lives had been and gone, never to return, yet he possessed the body of a neophyte thirty year old and those same rugged looks that had helped him build an empire all those centuries ago.
“Listen, Jacob. It’s twenty-five fifteen. This is the future! Why don’t you try and live in it for once!?” Patricia yelled. Jacob responded by blowing a smoke ring from his cigarette with arrogant indifference.
“You have no right to tell me what to do. Being blood related to me means your own future is secure thanks to my wealth. You should be goddamn grateful.” Jacob spat.
“I don’t want your money. I want you to be a part of this family you seem so intent on avoiding across time.” Patricia yelled while gesturing towards herself, although it was to signify that there were many more members of the Winters bloodline than just her, diluted as it had become.
Cool and cold as ever, Jacob rose from his seat to walk over towards Patricia and stood in front of her, nearly a full foot higher than she was. His snubbed his cigarette out on the pristine marble floor.
“Because when I set out to make this company, I had one goal. I wanted to conquer time. Time, Patricia! The very idea that we are mortal sickens me. We’re just here to pass on our genes and then to crawl into a hole in the ground, shit ourselves and die. I want something better for the human race.” Jacobs cried.
“And so now that you’ve cast this company and your… “genes” as you put it into time, you think it’s okay for you to just pop in every now and again and see how things are going?” Patricia retorted.
Chronos Industries was Jacob’s legacy, in his own mind, as much as his immediate offspring and all the children across the decades who followed like diverging tributaries in a river. Initially they perfected cryogenic storage in the twenty-two hundreds and then after re-emerging from a century frozen in time, Jacob returned to find his company had mastered the contortion of temporality through antimatter annihilation. A few skips across the pond of time later and Jacob had now come back to find time and space were humanity’s play thing, but death was still not defeated.
And, as certain as death and taxes, a member of his “family” was always waiting for him with this same dead horse of an argument.
“Damn right. I want to be there when humanity becomes the gods we deserve to be. That was my vision all those years ago, and in my dreams, cryogenic or temporal, that was all I thought about.” Jacobs said firmly.
“And what about actually living? Do you not have the slightest interest in meeting the families you’ve created? I don’t see it myself, but my son Matthew is nuts about you, he thinks you’re some sort of superhero.” Patricia explained, her simmering anger having dissipated somewhat.
Jacob didn’t answer, but instead drew another cigarette and lit it. He at least had the courtesy to blow the smoke away from Patricia when he exhaled.
“Okay, let me ask you this. What would H.G. Wells do? Do you not think he’d want to see his descendants in the future and the world they live in?” Patricia gambled, but Jacob had none of it.
“Wells is dead. Dead men don’t talk, but I do, and I can safely say, Patricia, that I have a larger goal in mind. If you’re so fond of this family you speak of go and spend your time with them rather than me. Besides, forming attachments only to have them crushed six months down the line when I go back to the stasis chamber doesn’t exactly strike me as a capital investment of one’s time.” Jacob explained with intermittent drags on his cigarette. The burning tip glowed a malevolent orange in the baleful light of the room.
“Fine.” Patricia said with a sigh. “I can see you’re not going to change.”
“Time hasn’t changed me, and you haven’t a chance. I’m sorry that I’m not the man you wished I was, but I have bigger fish to fry.” Jacob said with the first hint of softness in his voice, but the steel in his eyes did not waver.
Nothing more was said as Patricia saw herself out.
The same routine followed, the same pattern played out as usual. Jacob spent the next couple of months running his company and setting out his agenda for the coming decades, despite some stern protestations from the shareholders and many comments from the board of directors that Jacob was a fossil who deserved to be in a museum and not at the head of the largest corporate conglomerate ever known. Nonetheless, after dealing with the dissenters and getting everything in place, Jacob once again entered the temporal stasis chamber situated in a secure bunker in his mansion on Luna. The chamber was little more than a sealed box room containing a viewscreen from which he could set the duration of his time slip, and having dialled in a clean century’s worth of fast forwarding Jacob hit the start button and closed his eyes, passing the point of no return, for the time slip could not be cancelled prematurely without fatal consequences.
The sensation of the fast forward was only brief, but it made all of his hairs stand up on an end. A century elapsed in a second and Jacob opened his eyes again. The chamber was the same as before and he moved to the viewscreen to enter the necessary codes to unlock the door and rejoin the waking world.
Except, while the computer was working and had claimed to have opened the door, it had not moved an inch.
“What the?” Jacob muttered to himself. The door itself was electromagnetically sealed, but even if the power was off, which it wasn’t, it was far too heavy for even ten men to pry open.
That was of course an obstacle that could easily be rectified with outside assistance. Jacob picked the necessary commands to reach his email client on the viewscreen, but stopped short of actually composing his own and instead looked over the messages that had arrived in his absence.
Years of dialogue had been stored up, since Jacobs insistence he be carbon copied into every email sent by the upper echelons of his company, but the titles of the more recent messages were horrifying, using words like “evacuate”, “war”, “genocide”, “deceased”, all terrible in their connotations.
Sweat forming on his head, Jacob found the most recent email. It was from eighty years prior, after which there were no more. Eighty years of silence.
The email was from Matthew Collins, Patricia’s son, and read thusly:
“Hello Jacob. I hope you manage to read this message. My time is short here, since I’m leaving the Sol system tomorrow with the evacuation fleet. A lot of things have happened in your absence, and I can’t imagine what it must be like to wake up to all of this in that chamber. Mom, she hasn’t stopped crying since we realised we had to go and leave you behind. I, I just wish we could’ve met. But we’re safe, and I’ll do my best to ensure your legacy continues.”
“It’s funny. You always wanted to defeat death, yet, I realise that trapped in that chamber; he would’ve been your only companion. But, as little as it is, I promise you that me, Mom and the rest of us... we’re here with you in spirit. For what’s it worth, I’ve written something for you in these final hours. It’s the story, of my life…”
Illustration: Rylan Cavell