Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: First World Problem (04/17/14)
- TITLE: The Chrononaut
By Gregory Kane
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The digital readout tells me that the year is 1020 BCE. Saul is on the throne but the son of Jesse is about to make a spectacular entrance on to the pages of history. Towards the west lies the valley of Elah. I have visited this place in my own time period and looked down from Tel Azekah. But it seems much more lush in the here and now, with a broad streak of terebinths cutting across the bright yellows and golds of the flora.
The scene before me is not one of calm. Azekah and Socoh are half-hidden by the smoke of camp-fires, while the din of battle drums fills the air with an expectation of bloodshed. Instinctively, my fingers grope for the taser fastened to the inside of my thigh. This is the only defensive weapon permitted to me. It is intentionally non-lethal and in forty-odd jumps I have only ever used it against marauding animals. My clothing makes me look like a beggar and that alone keeps me out of more trouble than I can imagine. Few bandits will bother setting upon a pauper if an oft-patched tunic is to form their only reward. Of course, even beggars can be conscripted into armies, which is why I am this side of the valley, well away from the opposing forces to the north and to the south.
When Goliath finally appears, I literally feel my blood run cold. He is the very epitome of savagery, taller than I had anticipated, and wielding an array of bladed weapons that seem entirely superfluous given the obvious violence of his person. Increasing the magnification on my goggles, I start counting the scars that etch his huge arms, but give up after thirty. He is undeniably a killing machine.
One of the advantages of being a chrononaut is having access to all the latest technology. My goggles include a pair of directional microphones and a linguaplex 2.3 that effortlessly translates his guttural Philistine into intelligible English. A couple of minutes later, I mute the audio output as Goliath's diatribe is unbearably crude, belligerent and offensive.
The denouement of this well-known tale is almost an anti-climax. According to Samuel, the David he anointed was ruddy and good-looking. Maybe so, but this shepherd-boy has developed a bad case of acne. His clothes are clearly hand-me-downs and his hair looks like it's never ever been introduced to a comb. I guess I expected an epic speech along the lines of William Wallace or Henry of Monmouth. But before you can say B'Ezrat HaShem, a stone is flying through the air and the giant's a tumbling down.
To my horror, I see a horde of Philistines in full flight and heading in my direction. I have no time and no desire to explain my presence, so I make my own tactical retreat. Moments later, my chronosphere is powered up and I engage the temporal thrust. I try not to think about the arrows that bounce off the transparent skin of my time-craft. Its hide is reinforced; mine is not.
Seconds or millennia later, depending on your point of view, I park my craft in its hangar and walk through the main door of my residence. My teenage daughter is screaming to high heaven about some injustice done to her wardrobe by the automated laundry-bot. Allegedly, the pale red on some minuscule portion of a chequered skirt has faded imperceptibly. For the life of me, I can't see what she's going on about or why it even matters. But that hasn't stopped her posting her outrage on some social network or other. Instantly, my thoughts flash back to a spotty teenager in the Judaean hills with the conviction that some things are worth fighting about. I start to share this with my daughter but she looks at me as if I've just stepped off another planet. In a sense, perhaps I have.
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