"Finally, I have perfected my time machine!" Lucy said to her empty basement. She picked up a cold beer from one of her workbenches and wrapped her throbbing fingertips around it. The endless twisting of wires, day in, day out, over the course of months did a number on her fingers. Forget Rosie the Riveter, she thought, I should be called Lucy the logic board programmer: I did it!
She sipped her beer and smiled.
Her smile faded as she saw a white triangle sticking out from underneath a box of transistors. Lifting the box, she saw that it was a bill, it was from United Electric, and that it was due several months ago. She saw another bill beneath it. And another. Lucy's time machine used about as much electricity as a washing machine. A washing machine the size of Rhode Island, going full blast twenty-four-seven, with water pumps like a hydroelectric dam and an agitator bigger than Poseidon's trident.
And the late fees. Those hurt the most.
"Shit," Lucy said. She glanced from the electric bill, to her time machine.
"No," she said aloud. "This is a great triumph of science and ingenuity. It isn't to fix my own mistakes. It is meant to fix humanity's mistakes! Well, maybe just this once."
After she returned from her excursion to six months prior, she submitted her findings to the pretigious physics journal Wormholes and Such for review. They sent around a very young physicist with a trendy pet theory, and a very old physicist with a great old dinosaur of a theory.
Both of them shook their heads when they saw the machine.
"This will never work because of the yarn-like structures that permeate the universe. This has got too many edges! It'll get all tangled up!" the young physicist said.
"Poppycock and horse apples," the old physicist replied, "this won't work because of math!"
Lucy flipped the switch and sent them both back in time to a conference that they'd both attended some months ago. Both had their checkbooks out when they returned.
"Could we invest?"
And so Lucy became very famous in a very short amount of time, exactly as we'd expect from someone with a time machine. She signed a deal with FactoCorp that put her in charge of time machine Research & Development, and gave her access to a very expensive lab staffed by people with lots of letters after their names. They sent a truck to pack up her laboratory and move it into the lab. The next day, she reported to the lobby of FactoCorp.
"Hello, I'm Lucy, it's my first day," she said to the receptionist.
"I'll let them know that you're here," the receptionist said. She buzzed upstairs, and two burly security guards threw her out of the building.
"What's happening?" Lucy cried.
One of the security guards handed her a large manila envelope. There, on the sidewalk in front of FactoCorp's headquarters, she read that the deal gave FactoCorp exclusive rights to her design and that the contract did not secure her employment for any length of time greater than one minute, and that it was now 9:05 in the morning of her first day, she could be terminated without reason.
Lucy went home to her lab. The goons from FactoCorp had left most of the equipment unrelated to the time machine.
The next day, she saw an advertisement for FactoCorp's patented Time Machine. Never be late with another credit card bill!
The next day, she read that MegaBank Incorporated Holdings Corporation LLC had filed paperwork to sue FactoCorp for their overnight decline in profitability, as they relied on late charges and interest. The various lottery systems were named as co-plaintiffs.
The next day, the lawsuits mysteriously vanished.
The next day, a law firm submitted a class action lawsuit against MegaBank Incorporated Holdings Corporation LLC, saying that they were engaging in unfair business practices and that their clients had "a right to an unbroken, consistent chronology that forms the basis of the system of credit."
On a hunch, Lucy wen to the library and opened a history book and flipped to the section on Napoleon. It contained an excerpt from a letter describing the strange men and women that had appeared on the battlefield, throwing pieces of paper at each other.
She flipped the pages in the history book.
A letter from Henry VIII mentioned that he had several captives in foreign dress be jailed in and promptly disappear from the Tower of London.
Earlier still, she found a reproduction of Egyptian hieroglyphics. One of the figures was a perfect replica of the lawyer from FactoCorp with whom she'd met.
One of the earliest known fossils, according to the history book, was a golden pen engraved with the name of the same lawyer.
She put the history book away, found the astronomy section, and pulled down one labeled "Very, Very, Very Early: A Verbose History of A Small Dot That Turned Into Everything."
"Many cosmogonists continue to investigate the slight patterns in the cosmic microwave background radiation that, when parsed through an interpreter, can be read as a signal that says 'but note that no credit card contract says that we cannot tamper with the timeline of the universe.'"
Lucy went back home and thought over whether or not the application of her death robot could fix things somehow. When she woke up the next morning and checked the headlines, she realized that she didn't have anything to fix.
"POVERTY GONE, WORLD AT PEACE, UNPLEASANT FOLKS IMMOLATED IN THE BIG BANG," the newspaper headlines read.
The Moral: only use your death robot after you've already tried time machines.