Tom swung an unsteady leg over the seat and settled into the saddle. This whole horse riding thing was new for him, but he was determined to live out this dream. The horizon lay out before him, unbroken by buildings, sky scrapers, paved roads, or any other sign of civilization. How unlike his home he thought? To be alone, totally alone, and without a deadline to make or meeting to attend, was something Tom had wished for as long as he could remember.
He leaned forward, taking the reins in his hands. He looked behind him to see the two pack mules grazing on the knee length grass. Finally, he checked the line tied around the horn of the saddle, took a deep breath of the humid summer air and said to Chester, his horse, go. Nothing happened. He sat there a few moments wondering why nothing was happening as he reviewed the horse starting procedures he had read about in his manual. Finally, he said, “giddy up.” Still nothing. Obviously, Tom had a defective horse. Then he remembered the second part of the instruction, a gentle nudge in the side with his heels should accompany the words.
With renewed determination he shifted his weight, Chester raised his head from the grass as if to say, are you ready now? He said the magic words and lightly kicked Chester in the sides. With an unexpected lurch the two moved forward, and soon the four of them were slowly walking towards the unknown.
Tom came from a time without horses, a time when man had taken over all the planet and there were no grasslands, no empty spaces, no open horizons. It was the year 2222 and the earth’s human population stood at 24 billion. True, they had avoided nuclear war, moved to renewable energy, found a way to reuse almost everything, and had decided that all economists and financial experts should be shot, but still with 24 billion people milling around privacy was at a premium.
Tom was a rare anachronist. He longed for a time when people were not living on top of each other, when one’s life was not so inextricably linked to everyone else. A time when you could do what you felt, rather than what the state allowed. For those reasons, Tom had tinkered with the idea of travel and the conveyance necessary to take him to where he wanted to go. His eureka moment had come about two-years ago when he was rehashing the disconnects between quantum physics and Einstein’s theories of relativity. He found he could bend space, just like that old story from Frank Herbert, where the Navigators could be in two places by using some substance called spice. But he also found he could bend time to allow someone to travel forward or backward with great control.
Tom kept this knowledge to himself, for he saw the potential for unimaginable abuse by those who ran the earth. But he also set out to build a device that would allow him his adventures. Just as Jules Vern had imagined, Tom had built a “Time Machine.”
Once the machine was built, and tested with a quick run back to 2200 it was time for Tom to begin his preparations for his “Grand Adventure.” Where and when would it be?
He studied the knowledge grid to research the various times of humanity or even human-less time. As a part time historian and author, he had authorization to the knowledge grid for history, and his search did little or nothing to set off the AI tracking alerts for suspicious or unauthorized activity. He made doubly sure to keep his visits brief and in a specific order, which could be explained as a legitimate research process should the authorities choose to investigate.
He chose to write about the European suppression of the natives living in the plains of the North American continent as his topic. He had sent this request to the government, and in due course the bureaucracy sent back its approval with the usual caveats.
Everything was connected these days, so he began writing his outline as was expected, but he also made notes on an archaic iPad® he had found in his grandfather’s belongings years ago. His grandfather had shown him the iPad® when he was a boy and said it was a family heirloom. It was so old it wasn’t capable of integration into the global knowledge grid, but to be sure, Tom had opened the bulky old thing and removed the chip they had called the wifi processor.
After a few hours of research, he had settled on St. Louis, in what had once been Missouri, a part of the United States, and the year 1890, well before the serious exploration of what was called the Great Plains had begun. He figured he could get enough equipment and supplies from the French that inhabited that place, all he needed was whatever was the currency of the day. Gold always seemed a good choice, but not too much of it, and perhaps something else as well. So he began his shopping trips in the time machine to gather up the material he would need to outfit himself for the adventure.