... and then it was done.
Dr Marvin Ledbetter took a step back from the machine and smiled broadly in satisfaction. A screwdriver held loosely in one hand, he ran the other through his Einsteinian halo of wavy white hair and let himself relax. Finally, all of the diagnostics had been clear, and all that had remained was to attach the brass plate to the side of the instrument panel.
She was ready to go.
He placed the screwdriver on a nearby workbench and clambered into the machine, lowering himself into the old leather armchair that formed the centre of the contraption. His fingers moved over the polished brass, tracing the letters of 'Mary' with his fingers and he looked up to the picture that sat above it. Green eyes smiled at him from a captured moment of the past and he smiled back. Still smiling, he leapt from his seat with an energy that belied his frail appearance and starting grabbing items from the workbenches that surrounded him.
"Right: laptop, check. Bottled water. Check."
Moving frenetically around his lab, he mumbled his way through a mental list, collecting various things. He looked over at the machine called Mary, the car sized metal framework barely visible under the miles of wiring, sensors, and equidistantly spaced energy field cones and cast a final careful eye over the machine. And then, once he was ready, he sat back in the chair, connected up his laptop and sat for a few seconds with his eyes closed, savouring the moment. With a quick indrawn breath, he abruptly leapt from the machine again and grabbed a small plastic dinosaur skeleton.
“Malcolm! Check. Couldn’t forget you now old boy could we?”
Grinning madly, he plonked himself back into the chair and propped Malcolm up by his laptop. He tapped a couple of keys, punched a large green button with ‘Don’t Panic!’ written on it and sat gripping the arms of the chair as the machine powered up, his knuckles white and eyes wide. With a barely audible whine, the energy fields established themselves, a spider’s web tracery of white light creeping like frost from the cones, and the lab around him dimmed slightly. With what sounded like a soft ‘click’, he detached from the known universe and sat suspended in his energy bubble, the soft hum of his machine whirring steadily in the background.
Permitting himself a little jig of joy in his seat, he whooped in triumph and then ran through a series of tests, tapping rapidly at the keyboard until he had confirmed that he'd truly done it. The Ledbetter field generator - as he'd decided to call it in the few seconds previously - was working. He could move independently through time and space, the energy field utterly cutting him off from the universe as he knew it. Nothing could enter the field and nothing could leave. Picking up a small rubber ball, he threw it and watched with delight as it hit the floor, bounced solidly off the energy field and back into his hand.
“Lovely, just like Steve McQueen.” He grinned again, humming the theme tune to the Great Escape in an absent minded fashion.
"Well Mary," he whispered. "What do I do now eh?” His gaze flicked over at the small skeleton of the dinosaur, and his fingers moved rapidly over the keys once more. With another faint ‘click’ the universe moved around him.
A few nanoseconds later, not that the time really made any difference, Marvin sat suspended in the air above a vast herd of sauropods, watching intently as they moved across an endless savannah that, many millions of years later, would become the south coast of Hampshire. He watched open-mouthed as the Hypsilophodon herd moved gracefully in sync with each other, almost like a flock of birds, seeming to know instinctively where each of their colleagues were and what they were about to do. A stealthy movement caught his eye as a small group of predatory carnivores separated off a weaker herbivore, the swiftly moving neoventors expertly herding it away from the larger bull males before taking it down and feasting on its still warm carcass. Dinosaurs had always been Mary’s area of expertise, but it was an interest he’d happily shared, his boyhood fascination with them reignited by his wife when they married. Malcolm had been one of the sillier presents he’d given her over the few short years they were together.
“Ah, but your kind didn’t last very long after this did they Malcolm?”