Time, 101

Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

“Paxton – Porterhaus – Pratt.” The name was enunciated with venomous care, as though each word were an expletive of a most unpleasant nature.  The professor spoke across a desk cluttered with piles of documents, large texts and time keeping and measuring devices, to the youth lounging lazily in the chair opposite him. “I fear you have run afoul one too many times of this institution, Pratt, and this time you’ve gone too far. Beyond disrupting my classroom, you have stained my reputation, and this” he paused to push his glasses up the crooked bridge of his nose “this I will not tolerate.”

The youth shifted only slightly in his chair, gazing smugly through a sea of clocks and whirling planetary models at his agitated teacher. He made a show of straightening his tie, a striped affair with the backside facing, the fat end terminating at his breast pocket, while the tail hung between his legs.

“It was bad enough your turning in a summary of text so obviously penned by another, and someone that had either himself never laid eyes upon the assigned text, or harbors you no amount of goodwill.” The professor paused a moment, moving carefully aside the student record labeled ‘Pratt, Paxton P., III’, the cover of which sporting an equally disheveled version of the student now before him, similarly smug, and gazing idly from side to side inside the holo’d cover. He lifted a textbook from beneath it, and turning it towards his student poked angrily at it. “That was bad enough, but you, you had the unmitigated audacity to accuse me of ‘gross and libelous conduct’ and ‘harboring a clear prejudice against you’ for my failing grade.” At this, he leaned forward, rising slightly out of his chair. “I had to actually defend myself to the Dean Construct against your charge that I ‘clearly did not understand the author’s theories or proofs sufficiently to grade your exceptional paper’. Mr. Pratt, read for me the author of the text I’m holding.” He held the book as far as his reach would allow, and glared past it as the reluctant Paxton Pratt eyed the title without speaking. “You’ll notice, Mr. Pratt, that is my name on the cover.”  At this, Paxton shifted uncomfortably in his chair, his smug look softening ever so slightly.

The professor dropped the textbook loudly in the middle of his desk, and slumped back into his chair, a tense silence taking hold as various units of measurement ticked on the various time keeping devices around the room. Somewhere, something clicked audibly, the noise setting the professor back in motion.

“Mr. Pratt. I would have expelled you at once, however your father assured me that were I to make you his burden again, his generous funding for the ‘Pratt Faculty of Time Studies’ would immediately, and with great prejudice run dry.” The professor picked up Paxton’s file from his desk and tossed at the student, who caught it in surprise. “Keep that, will you. I shan’t be needing it in a moment. You see, if you had listened in any of my classes, you’d know that manipulating the past is strictly prohibited. However, if you had bothered to read the textbook you were assigned, you may have taken an interest in the appendices, specifically the one titled ‘Exceptions to the Timeline Rule’. You see, Mr. Pratt, arranging for a house to drop on your head as a child, while enormously gratifying, would constitute a gross variation in the Timeline, and as such is prohibited. It would seem, however, that your parents, as your father was so kind to enlighten me, never wanted another child. You were apparently an accident brought about by a failed vasectomy, and as you were already so very close to not existing, a subtle manipulation to the Timeline where you are concerned is perfectly acceptable.”

At this, the professor paused a moment to straighten several piles of documents on his desk before speaking pointedly at the shrinking and confused looking youth now almost cowering in his chair.

“Mr Pratt – I’ve taken the liberty of scheduling a tubal ligation after the birth of your older brother Weston.  In a moment, the Continuum will refresh, and the displeasure of your existence…” he paused for a brief moment “…will have been all mine.” These last five words he spoke to an empty chair.

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