Chapter 2. The Time and Space Consortium:
It was pink and his head hurt. He felt like he was floating in air, but not like he was falling. He had watched a program on Discovery about out of body experiences and guessed that this was what it must feel like. His dreamlike state was interrupted by a large blipping noise and his body fell face down onto a hard surface smashing his glasses in the process. With a blurry vision he looked on in astonishment as a pink room seemed to materialise around him. He couldn’t quite make out the details but laying there on the floor it seemed like the walls were covered with buttons of various sizes and shapes. As he stretched his hands out to retrieve his glasses he noticed that the floor he was lying on was in fact not hard, but made of some kind of synthetic fluffy pink fibre.
“Sorry about the rough ride. It is always hard the first couple of times.” The little man had landed safely on his feet and was now checking buttons and pulling levers that had appeared on the ceiling. He seemed oddly in place in the pink room and Maz acknowledged that he might the one who didn’t fit in. Not that he had ever felt like he fit in on earth.
Earth! Emma! What had happened to them all?
The blipping noise went away and the little man picked up the glasses and looked them over.
“Very interesting...” He turned them over several times like they were an object of great fascination.
Maz struggled to sit upright, but in the end he managed.
“Can I have them back please? I can’t really see without them.” The little man looked at him quizzically.
“They help you see? Oh dear, well that can’t do!” He pulled a device from his pocket that looked very much like a remote control and without asking for permission he pointed it at Maz and pressed a button. Maz felt his eyes rolling around in their sockets and his head felt like it was turning into jelly, but then the heat went away and he could see perfectly.
“Amazing! What did you do to me?” The little man shook his head.
“There is no time to explain the details to you, but I rearranged some of your brain cells.”
“You...” Maz felt close to throwing up again and looked around for some water.
“Liquid!” A tiny voice cried out. Maz looked around for anything that could have possibly uttered those words, but there was no one here but him and the little man. Two chairs and a table appeared. On the table, cups were materialising and plates. Maz groaned as he got up, but managed to stumble all the way to the table and sit down to...
“Toast and tea?” The little man nodded.
“A little bird told me that this is the most common thing to serve in the early hours of the days where you come from.”
“A little bird?”
“Yes he is a parakeet actually, if you want specifics.” Maz started to eat his toast. The little man sat down.
“See, a long time ago the Intergalactic council for Humanoids decided that it would be far better for us if our better judgement lived outside of us. That way it would always be independent. So I have Parakeet Pete who lives in my hat. Actually earth was scheduled for something similar, but then wars broke out and you were kind of forgotten. Guess it comes with being one of the outer rim planets, never quite got around to it I’m afraid.“ Something inside the man’s hat chirped and he nodded.
“Actually he would like to know why you earth-dwellers insist on stuffing birds in cages.” The bird chirped again and Maz shrugged.
“Alright all animals then, jeeps Louise you are asking a lot of a humanoid with such limited brain-function. No offense,” he looked at Maz’s head and Maz felt an eerie cold hand squeezing his brain, “you are remarkable fascinating creatures to study but it always puzzles me that you manage to get through your pitiful short lives with the little use you have of your brain. Does it make you happier to live such short lives because you are in fact the humanoid equivalent of a very stupid space-monkey drone whose only function is to sit around and wait for the signal to press the big banana shaped button that will destroy a planet?”
“Wait, space-monkeys are blowing up planets? What kind of a sick joke is this?”
“Joke, no joke I can assure you. They tried every other shape but the banana was the only thing that would keep them occupied.”
Maz nodded like he had understood it all, but it was all rather baffling to him and he was pretty sure that even though the toast was excellent this was all just an evil nightmare and he would soon wake up on a bench still hung over. The little man sniffed the tea and wrinkled his nose. He pulled out a pot of Bovril and poured some hot water in a cup. He noticed that Maz was staring at him.
“I have quite acquired a taste for it when I was down there. And Marmite, but my studies tell me that you either hate it or love it. And judging from your facial expression,” Maz had made a face of utter disgust at the thought of the hideous spread, “you are one of the haters. More for me I guess!” Maz took another bite of his Marmite free toast and sipped his tea as if he was trying to maintain the sweet memory of it for a while.
“Anyway, enough with the chitchat. Time for formal introductions Mr. Anderson! I am Professor, Darwin Willard, Chief Inspector specialized in Humanoid Intergalactic Space Travels, for the Time and Space Consortium. We are kind of the janitors of time, we fix things when they break and maintain the universe as it is written out in the great time-line.”
Maz swallowed the last piece of toast.
“I am Maz Aldrich, uhm... I work at ASDA. And right now I am rather confused to why you kidnapped me of all people.”
The Professor opened up his orange book and it blipped back at him.
“To tell you that I would have to kill you Mr. Aldrich.” The little man laughed but Maz did not find it very amusing.
“No I am serious. I would have to kill you. You see everything is mapped out according to Time and Space liminality and a whole lot of other things and we Professors only know our little part of the whole operation. Imagine if you will that we are one puzzle piece out of a billion set puzzle. Does that make you feel better?”
“Good! I suppose you are eager to start work as soon as possible?” Willard got up and headed for a panel of buttons.
“Hold on, you haven’t actually told me what it is, you suppose I will be doing for you. I take it that you are not wanting me to fill up the tinned goods aisle?” Professor Willard spun around, looking quite amused.
“Oh it’s elemental Mr Aldrich. I have received permission to send a hero through time and space to put together a team that can save earth from being eradicated. You are the hero, I provide the travel opportunities.”
“And how will I know who I am supposed to bring back with me?”
“Oh you will know. Trust me, it is quite intuitive.”
“And what if I can’t find the right person?” The Professor looked puzzled, as if this was not a possibility in his head.
“Failure is not an option Mr. Aldrich. If you do not retrieve the person you are sent there to fetch there will be no getting back to this ship.” Maz felt his stomach turn.
“So... what you are saying is that I will get stuck in God knows where if I can’t find a random person to bring with me back?” The Professor was in the process of plugging him into a machine by placing electrodes on his arms and face.
“Nothing is random Mr. Aldrich, it is all pre-destined. The people you are saving will not be missed, they should not be missed. You are not to interfere with the time-line, only to remove those who do not fit in.”
“And what happens...”
“Failure is not an option! You have three days to return to place of descent and then the portal will close. Do not be late. Time travel is expensive and I do not want to send someone down to pick you up.” The machine started blinking and pulsing, Maz felt himself go rigid with anticipation of the time travel.
“Where will you send me?”
“Oh past, present, future. Just bring me some good warriors where ever you end up!”
“Oh one more thing.” The Professor handed him a bag and Maz willed himself not to rip the wires off and get as far away as possible.
Maz felt the ground disappear from underneath his feet again and then he was blinded by a great orange light. When he woke up it was dark and something was moving next to him. Something big!