The group was ushered down the corridor of what looked like an old factory, with all the pipes and tanks scattered across the place. They entered into- what had to be a lab. There were computers; blueprint sketches and dismantled high-tech weapons all over the place. Dominating the sides of the room, were man-sized tanks with small windows that showed a blue liquid inside. Sam had a mind to ask what was in the tank but thought better of it. He didn’t want to know what crazy experiments they were running in the future.
“This,” explained the Professor, “is the Department of Scientific Research and Development.”
The room was riddled with a handful of people in safety gear performing experiments. Sam noticed Ripley entering the room through another door, using a towel to dry her hair. She was now dressed in a tight white tank top which looked surprisingly attractive and the bottom half of a blue jumpsuit – the long sleeves rolled up and neatly tied around her waist.
“Wow...” said Doug. “She looks hot when she’s, you know, clean.”
“Yeah and you are very sleazy when you’re, you know, breathing, said Selena, ‘which is to say: always.”
“Ah, First Sargent Trautman,” said the Professor to Ripley, “glad to see you made it.”
“Q,” she said simply. “Have you filled them in yet?”
“Not yet. I was about to get started which makes me glad you’re here. How much have you already told them?” They were all now standing close to one of the tanks now.
“We know about ARTIS,” said Sam.
“Good,” said the Professor. “Then we’ll start there. The Waves were not just a new social network. They were always meant as a means of communication for the military. They were discovered near the end of the last millennium on – what was called – the dark side of the Electromagnetic Spectrum. This is where the long waves dwelled. It became famous for being able to send audio messages across the globe almost instantaneously. That was when scientists became interested in its association with time. The collation of that process ended with the Artificial Intelligence System, better known as ARTIS. Now we believe that The Waves were created in the year 2001, after the September 11th attacks.”
“Actually, it was the year 1999.” Sam was now standing next to one of the tanks, succumbing to his curiosity and peeking inside. He turned to find everyone in the room looking at him. “The Waves... were created in 1999.”
“You never told us that...” said the Professor.
“Of course, I haven’t. I’ve never met you before.” Sam saw the look he gave Ripley. It was a knowing look. “Right?”
“Technically, that’s correct.”
“Technically?” Sam crowed sarcastically. “Let me ask you something Professor. How old are you?”
The Professor hesitated. “I’m fifty-one.”
“Huh. I only ask because that would make you ten years older than me... technically’ Sam said the last word with deliberate emphasis. “So why don’t you tell me what exactly is going on? How did you know who I was?”
The Professor and Ripley shared another knowing look. This time, it was Ripley who spoke.
“Sam, have you not wondered that if this is indeed the future to where you come from, then where are you in this future.”
Sam thought over what she was saying. It had been a good question. Where was his future self? “Okay, now you’ve got me thinking. So... where am I?”
“We don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“You went missing in action.”
Sam thought about that for a moment. “Wait... what exactly did I – or will I – do here?”
“You were the one who introduced the theory of The Waves being the answer to destroying ARTIS and ending the war.”
“So I worked here, in the lab, with you guys?”
“Wow!” said Doug, rolling his eyes. “You grow up to be a geek. There’s something to look forward to.”
“No,” said Ripley. “You worked out in the field.” The group's eyes were on the mysterious femme fatale. “The military doesn’t believe in the work we do down here. But you did. It was important that information be gathered out in the field, and the only people who go out in the field are soldiers. So you volunteered to join them solely so you could do our bidding. You slowly became a hero to both us and them: a decorated soldier.”
“So what happened?” asked Selena.
“The last mission you went out on was supposed to be the breakthrough that we needed. You’d said that you found out where the source of The Waves was. You were part of the team that was dispatched to go there, but we never heard back from that team ever again. The military declared them dead, but there’s no proof.”
“Dead!?” said Sam in shock. “Are you saying that I’m dead!?”
“No, that’s not what we’re saying at all. I would know if you were dead. Not to mention if Falcon were dead too.”
“Okay, now who’s Falcon?” said Doug.
“She’s his Operator.” said Ripley giving the Professor another knowing look.
A long moment passed with no one saying anything. The group was somewhat overwhelmed with what they’d just heard about Sam’s future. The news didn’t help Sarah’s head space at all. She still didn’t want anything to do with this so-called future.
“That can’t all be true.”
“It is, Sarah,” said Ripley.
“Okay,” said Sam. “So what happens now?”
“Now that you know how important you are to our cause,’ said the Professor, ‘it’s time you know how you got here.”
“You gonna tell me The Frequency... right?”
“Are you talking about that whole rip through the fabric of time thing?” said a disbelieving Sarah.
“Yes,” said the Professor. “The Frequency was indeed a rip through the fabric of time which caused—”
“Wait, stop,” said Doug. “Haven’t you guys ever read a comic book before? You can’t just drop us like a bomb dead-centre in the middle of a story. You’ve got to start from the beginning.”
“He’s right,’ added Sam. “You didn’t finish telling us about The Waves.”
The Professor coughed. “You’re right. My apologies. I just assumed that you knew because of your... It doesn’t matter; that was silly of me. Right, shall I pick up where we left off?”
“Right. The Waves were created in 1999 – as you so corrected – for military usage. It would soon after become an internet phenomenon. So much so that people would end up worshipping it, saying that it represented fate.”
“I read that part,” said Sam. “People said that The Waves were a Godsend- a map of the future and what would happen. When I first started using it, I didn’t believe all that. They started referring to its use as ‘surfing the waves.’ The poetry of that always amused me.”
“Yes, well what if I told you that part of that was actually true. Now, I’m not saying that it represents fate, but rather time. We know time as something that passes without us really noticing it. It’s like... watching the sun set. You can’t actually tell it's moving when you look at it, if you look at it once, and then again later, you will notice the difference.
“Now The Waves represents that audibly. It brings all the different time zones into the world onto one plane and allows us to hear it all. Now, what people didn’t know back in your time, was that The Waves had three dimensions. The past: which is what has happened; the present: which is what is happening; and the future: which is what will happen. Now, The Waves couldn’t predict the future, like some people thought. But it had a part of it that represented the future—”
“So what’s your guess on what happened to us?” said Selena. “You think that we got zapped by The Waves?”
“There are problems with The Waves. It’s not absolute. Over the years that The Waves were making its name, the founders came across... problems.”
“Problems like what?”
“Strange symbols that couldn’t be explained.”
Sarah’s head was on the verge of spinning. She needed to focus on something concrete... even if she didn’t believe in it. “Wait a minute. I don’t get it. What are The Waves? I keep imagining it as some freaky Matrix-like code running up a computer screen.”
“Well you’re half right.” confirmed Sam.
The Professor continued. “The Waves are a code- at least it sounds like one. It’s an audio version of what you just described... sounds eerie in its natural raw, unaltered state. That’s from it being all the sounds of the world being heard at the same time. It’s been known to put people into trances from listening to it in that state for too long.”
“Tell me you’re joking,” said Sarah.
“I’m afraid, he’s not,” said Ripley. “The Waves are the direct cause of everything that has happened. Had they not created it, this war may not have happened.”
“That may not actually be true,” said the Professor. “The flow of time is perpetual—”
“It’s what?” Sarah’s head was beginning to spin again. What the hell were they talking about?
“Perpetual. It’s indefinite,” he continued. “It goes on forever. Think of an apple falling endlessly from a tree towards the ground. But it never reaches it. Now the tree is the yesterday: the past and the ground is tomorrow: the future. The apple is us with the space between the tree and the ground being now: the present. We are forever in the now, the present, moving – or falling – towards the future.
“Now what I’m saying about this being unavoidable, is that changing one thing won’t change anything. Changing the location of the tree; changing the location of the apple, or even changing the kind of apple won’t change the future we’re heading towards.”
“That analogy kinda made no sense,” said Doug.
“I don’t understand?” said Sarah.
“Yeah, me neither,” said Selena.
“Cause and Effect. Going back in time and stopping the creation of The Waves won’t change the effect... it would only change the cause.”
“So how do you change the effect?” asked Doug.
“Dramatic change. You must change the circumstances. It’s like gambling. You flip a coin and call heads. The coin being flipped is the cause. The coin landing tails is the effect. But if we change the circumstances by saying that we know for a fact that the coin will land heads because it's a double headed coin, then we can change the effect.”
“You see now that’s a good analogy,” added Doug.
“So what,” said Sarah, half-heartedly, “flipping the coin is the creation of The Waves while it landing tails is this ARTIS thing taking over and beginning the war?”
The Professor smiled. “Exactly.”
“Which means going back in time and telling them what happened would be changing the circumstances.” said Ripley.
“And how do you suppose to do that,” said Doug. “Time-travel?”
“We don’t know,” said Ripley. “But we’re hoping that you're being here will shed some light on that.”
“Speaking of time-travel and us being here...” said Sarah, whose skepticism was rising. “How exactly did that happen?”
“Well right now,” said the Professor, “we can’t tell you, because – other than that it had to do with the frequency – we don’t know.”
“Well can you tell us this...” said a sighing Sam. Sam was leaning on the tank again, trying to look into the window. The blue liquid was making it hard to tell what was inside, but looking at the dimensions of the tank and the location of the window it wasn’t hard to guess. When he concentrated on where the head should be, he wasn’t shocked to see two eyes staring back at him. “... What’s in the tanks?” Sam’s question caught all of their attention. “Because I’m willing to bet that you guys work on a lot more than just analysing The Waves.”
“What’s in the tank is not important right now.” said the Professor, deflecting.
Ripley gave him yet another look, only this time, it was in disagreement. “Q... everything in here is important. I think you should tell them.”
The Professor sighed, in obvious disagreement. He hesitated for a moment before answering and nodded his head reluctantly. “I’ve got a better idea... Why don’t we show them.”