Time: The Future.
So, there I am, working with the *BIG* Tesla coil, the conjugate mirror and the ferrite-array phase-shift module, when there’s a loud POP and FLASH–
When I finish coughing ozone and checking for damage from that arc-over’s ball lightning, I notice I’m not alone in my cellar workshop any more.
He’s Mid-Eastern, dressed in swirly silks, doesn’t look like a typical Jihadist. His ornamental belt-knife is a bit on the scimitar-sized.
He didn’t come through the door: Opening my cellar’s Faraday Cage cuts the power.
He is *slightly* transparent…
I glance over to the optical bench and the holography table, there’s nothing running.
“D’uh, hello…” I offer, “Are you a Time Traveller ?”
“YOUR KIND WOULD–”
Plaster dust and dried blue-tack blobs shower from the ceiling. The Faraday Cage shrieks, buzzes, rattles and clatters like a Heavy Metal concert during accidental feedback.
He gulps, tries again at a level below painful, “Ahem: Your kind would call me Genie or Afriit.”
“Er, Hello, Howdy, Salaam, Bonjour, Guten Tag, whatever: What brings you to my humble workshop ?”
“My ectoplasm was running low.”
“Ah, I might be able to rig a feed, but…”
“No, no… I have derived ample nutrition from your sparkly device.” He chuckled. Rather than sounding jolly, that had subsonics like a funnel cloud…
“May I open the door for you to leave ?”
“Not yet.” He chuckled again, “Are you ignorant of the old legends ?”
“None of my business.” I shrugged, “I can offer you coffee, but only Instant. There’s some yoghurt and bread rolls in the fridge that should comply with Islamic food rules. I’ve some tinned chicken & mushroom soup in the cupboard, salt on the table, water in the tap…”
“Too kind !!” He chuckles, “You are a cool one– Are you a Wizard ?”
“I’m an Amateur Scientist, is all.” I sighed, “But I suppose we’ve evolved from those old Alchemists…”
“Ah, you follow the Alexandrian Tradition ?”
“Figured the Earth was round, got a fair estimate ? Now, THEY were real smart. I’m just a hobbyist– I do this for fun.”
“You stand on the shoulders of giants– and know it.”
“Too kind.” I nodded, “But you look as if you have something else on your mind…”
“Ahem…” He chuckled, “I am required to return a kindness for a kindness.”
“Well, it was the best ball-lightning toroid that rig’s blown in months, CCTV caught it, I reckon we’re even.”
“But I did not ask: I am obliged to you.”
“You get a Wish.”
“No, thank you.” I stated, “You’ve also given me material for a short story, we’re well even.”
“You do not want a Wish ?”
“Look…” I waved around, “Science don’t work on Wishes, I’d be dishonest, I’d be cheating.”
He puzzled, “You are old: Do you not wish for Youth ?”
“Hey, I’m not that old, not for this era !! I’ve several active decades ahead of me– D’uh, and to be young and foolish again ? Think with my hormones instead of my head ? No thanks !! I might not be so lucky this time around !!”
“Ah, you are a Philosopher.”
“If you like…” I shrugged, “Took me long enough to garner the rudiments of wisdom…”
“Then would you have Wisdom ?”
“I’m only human– it would drive me mad.”
“Don’t like fuss. Or crowds. Also, there is Fame and Fame.”
“Ah, you are modest, too… Fortune ?”
Again, I waved around, “This came from my pocket-money. I’m not poor. If I had more, it would only go as tax. Worse, I’d need to explain getting rich suddenly.”
“Your people have a Lottery–”
He inclined his head in salute, glanced beyond the walls, “You write stories ? Do you not wish fame thus ?”
“They’re not bad, some are quite good, but they’re not Commercial.”
“You wrote a novel ? Surely many would pay to read it ?”
“Niche subject: I’m not ashamed of it, but it is NOT best-seller material. No way will I go to the Vanity Press. Leave it as an e-zine.”
“Hmm… Your wife is sick ? You do not Wish her well ?”
“I would if I could, but there is ‘improbable’ and ‘impossible’. Wednesdays, she’s in day-care. I’ve done the shopping, I’ve time to play.”
“She is dying ?”
“No more than you or I… She just collects medical problems– One damn thing on top of another…”
“My Powers are great–”
“So have a look, if you like, but no obligation.”
He faded to invisibility. I checked the Tesla for burns, reset the breakers in the capacitor-pack’s charger.
“Ahem…” He was back, “About that novel ??”