I’ll Be Back

Flash Fiction Month 2017, Day 16

“Okay, so here’s how we’ll do it: there’s this robot apocalypse and the robots go back in time to kill the leader of the human resistance before he’s born.”

“Wouldn’t work,” said Zara. “If they go back in time and kill him, he never starts leading the resistance in the first place.”

“Yeah. I know. That’s the point.”

“But then how do the robots know to go back in time and pre-kill him? I mean, they’ve got no reason to kill him if he’s already been dead for years.”

“Okay.” Callum took a deep breath. “Same situation, but the good guys send a good robot to go back in time and stop the bad one from killing the guy. Only it turns out that the remains of the bad robot are what let humankind build evil robots in the first place.”

“Still wouldn’t work. If the evil robots have to go back in time for evil robots to be invented, who invents evil robots the first time around?”

“Okay, different situation: two guys accidentally build a time machine in their garage. They use it to make a fortune on the stock market, then realise it’s too dangerous, go back in time and stop themselves from building the time machine.”

“Same problem as the first one, sort of: if they go back in time to stop themselves building the machine, they can’t use it to go back and stop themselves, which means they build it after all.”

“Wait…” Callum thought for a moment. “Wait…if stopping themselves from building the machine means that they can’t go back in time and stop themselves, which means they do build it, which means they can go back in time, which means they don’t build it…” He made a series of hand gestures that looked like he was using an invisible abacus. Or milking a very small goat. “Do they just flip back and forth like that? Forever?”

“I guess.”

“Like a cat with a slice of buttered toast strapped to its back.”

“Like that but probably less angry.”


There was a pause. The rest of the boardroom was silent.

“So if we can’t do time travel, how do we write Martin back in this season? I mean, it’s great he apologised to the producer for what he did to his car, but show-wise that radioactive bear can’t un-eat him. I thought that was pretty much the point.”

Zara tapped the end of her pencil on her teeth for a bit. “Can we just have Jane wake up and find him taking a shower? Write off the last few dozen episodes as an extended dream sequence?”

Callum thought some more. “Would that make sense?”

Zara shrugged. “More sense than time travel. Trust me.”

Her phone began to ring.

“Sorry. I’ve got to take this.”

She stood up and walked to the door.

“Okay,” she heard Callum say as she gently closed it. “If anybody thinks they’ve got a better idea, now’s the last chance to throw it out there.”

Zara found an empty office, stepped inside and locked the door.

There was a crackle of heavy static as she hit the button to accept the call, and the subatomic broadcast relay connected to itself, fifteen years in the future.

“Did it work?” asked the voice on the other end.

“Exactly as anticipated,” Zara answered. “Without seeing the time travel subplot in his favourite soap opera, Doctor Starling will never pursue the technology himself and Cloudnet will never have the opportunity to pre-kill our commander.”


There was a pause.

“Hey, since you’re going forwards in time anyway, could you grab my lunch off my desk on the way here? It’s stone cold now but it was fine twenty minutes ago.”

If you’ve enjoyed this story, you can find my work from previous Flash Fiction Months collected in these books:

OCR is Not the Only Font Cover REDESIGN (Barbecued Iguana)Red Herring Cover (Barbecued Iguana design)Bionic Punchline eBook CoverOsiris Likes This Cover

Click any cover to find that book in your choice of format.

You might also be interested in my sci-fi murder mystery novella, Ten Little Astronauts, which is currently crowdfunding at Unbound. Most pledge levels include all the books shown above, and all will include your name in the back of Ten Little Astronauts itself as a patron of my work.

Support it here!

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