Automatic Parallel Program
By Lazarus Sretlaw
Phase One: The Test
Monday 10th May 2021, 10.45am. Peele University
“So, what’s the most important thing we need to understand about mobile technology now, anyone. Anyone?” the Professor asked clapping his hands together as he tossed the board marker in the air and caught it.
No one in the class raised their hands. I thought about it for a second then slowly reached up.
“Johnny, yes?” said the Professor looking at me hopefully
The Professor was what most people would call a mad scientist only more of a nerd. His ideas about the future and how films and video games would help the world expand where somewhat a joke around the campus. He wore a dark blue t-shirt with the ‘Back to the Future’ logo on it, under his blazer, dark jeans which always seemed to have a small bag hanging out the back pocket and bright white Converse trainers. He wasn’t old like most Professors here at the university. He was something different, I liked him, even though I knew he was mad. Not that mad though, not enough to be taken away and lose his job, and he did a good job at teaching what he was told to, but some of his other theories where laughable. He once said ‘Jurassic Park’ wasn’t just a work of fiction but there actually was a place just off the coast of Fiji where Dinosaurs ruled. He was keen on a conspiracy and normally the butt of many jokes.
“It’s moving forward?” I questioned
“RIGHT.” he yelled and as half the class jumped. “It’s moving forward, always actually. Right now, If I pick up Jenny’s phone.”
Jenny sat at the front of the class looked up from her laptop to the Professor
“err, yeah sure,” she said slightly worried.
“Now, Jenny’s phone has all your normal junk on it.”
The class giggled.
“Sorry, has your normal apps. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on.”
The class stayed silent. I looked around as most of them including me actually had taken their phones and started looking through them.
“But did you know these apps actually have a certain code built in that if something major happens, let's say terrorist attack, earthquake, something like that they will all stop working and only allow you what the government wants you to see.”
“Like the warning in Hawaii,” said a girl a few rows ahead of me.
“Exactly. Now, that was a mistake but the point I’m getting at is your phone has so much more potential than you know or would even think about.” He placed Jenny’s phone back on the desk
“What’s in your pockets or on the desk in front of you, has more computing power than Nasa used to get the moon all them years ago.”
As he finished his sentence the bell rang and the class began to leave. I packed away my things and headed towards the door.
“Johnny, a word,” said the Professor.
I headed towards the front of the class room. The Professor had a look of excitement and urgency about him.
“Hey, is this about the assignment?” I asked as I pulled my bag over to show him how far I’d gotten.
“No, my dear boy, this is much more up your street and well I could use your help with something,” the Professor explained
“My help?” I was taken aback by the request, it’s not like I was the smartest in the class, actually I was pretty low down. The only time I ever got an A grade was for that an app we had to make. Mine was the only one that actually made it to the app store. I’ve had a few sales but 69p for four sales isn’t anything to be too excited about.
“Yes,” he said with a determined voice.
“Ok, sure, what do you need?” I pulled a chair towards me.
“Leave that. Come with me,” he said abruptly standing and walking towards the door
I stood and followed and we headed along the corridor to his office. Well, it wasn’t really his office, it was a server room and it was freezing. He had added maybe three more air- conditioning units to keep everything cool. At the back of this narrow cupboard, office type room was a desk with three monitors set up.
“Jesus, its freezing. So Mr P what’s the problem,”
He pulled out a folding chair opened it and pointed to it. I sat and pulled in to get closer to the screens. I should have worn my glasses but I never do.
“You see here.” He pointed to the screen. “Well I need a tester, I need someone to test the app out for me,”
I looked slightly confused. “Why can’t you test it yourself?”
“I need to be here if something goes wrong and well I know your good with apps so you could fix stuff too, if something happens in there.”
“In there?” I questioned with probably a bizarre look on my face
Monday 10th May 2021, 11.17am. Peele University
“No, No, No, No, this isn’t right, it can’t be. It’s not a thing. A phone app. A mobile phone,” I said in shock. “You actually believe you’ve made an app that will take you to an alternate universe by asking it a question,” I continued.
“Yes,” the Professor replied slightly more upbeat than normal.
“Let me get this right. I can’t believe I’m going to say this. I type in what I want different in my life. I dunno, I didn’t miss that penalty when I was 12 and we won the cup. This will show me how my life pans out by viewing it in this app?” I questioned in disbelief.
The Professor stood for a moment, tapping his pen on his temple.
“Sure, why not.”
“What do you mean sure, why not?” I snapped back
“Well, in theory, that’s what happens. Only looking at a screen and seeing what life would be like for five minutes wouldn’t have mass appeal,” he explained
“Are you kidding me, the whole world would want that, Jesus. To see what life would be like if you didn’t turn left. What if you didn’t ask the girl or guy to the prom in High school or did ask him or her. You could see it. Everyone with a mobile phone would want this. Everyone.” I said with excitement.
“Yes, true boy. But it needs more,” he said leaning down to the computer screen. “I need your help to make it VR.”
“Professor, that would be even more amazing,” I said with even more hopefulness in my voice. “You could actually go there and live a different life. Shame it’s only 5 five minutes though.” I continued.
After a while and more explanation from the Professor, I was writing code to try and make this mobile app a mobile VR app. Now I knew a little bit about VR but my brother he’s the guy he wanted. He helped Microsoft build their VR after the Oculus Rift debacle. The Professor was a bit uneasy about me bringing anyone in to help out. My brother who was a good few years older than me, 30 and way smarter. I got the looks, I tell people when they meet us.
Wednesday 12th May 2021, 1.35pm Roast and Yo coffee house
I met my brother at a funky coffee house just off the old high street. The Professor really didn’t want people knowing, I think he thought they’d steal his idea and get it out there first. I mean he was hiding out most days in one of the University’s server rooms. Old hippies and mums on their afternoon outing would fill the coffee house. I sat waiting for my brother, ordered him a large black coffee with 2 two sugars. I thought he’d need it.
When my brother finally arrived he entered and grinned as he walked across the coffee shop to the table. He pulled out the chair and sat down.
“Alright?” he grunted as he normally did towards me as a greeting
“Yeah, you?” I grunted back
‘Usual, you know. How’s Uni? Still bottom of the class?” he chuckled
“I guess mum told you about that?” I replied
“Yeah, it crept up. Listen maybe this isn’t the course for you. I know you want to be a video game designer but that’s hard mate. I couldn’t get my head around it.” he said
“You just couldn’t get a good idea together” I said with a snarky voice.
I pulled my laptop from my bag and flipped it open and turned it towards him.
“What’s this then,” he said pulling it forward and looking at the screen of code.
He sat, for a second and scanned it over again.
“Holy shit! You did this?” he asked whispering so none of the other customers could hear “No, my professor. He asked me to help complete it and get it out but I’m having an issue,” I explained.
“You, issues? Never!” He slightly grinned as he spoke. “So what’s the problem?” he asked
I pulled out a pad of paper and a pen, wrote on it a short code and slid it across the table.
“I need you to fix the code so we can get the VR to work. It’s all here but it’s not connecting, just getting error messages and black lines.” I took a breath and waited for his response
He sat for a second, thinking. Then wrote something on the pad of paper and slid it towards me.
He had written a note just under the code.
‘We can’t talk here, too many ears, meet me at the old train station in half an hour.’
I looked up at him and then looked around and then he spoke.
“Yep, Sorry old buddy, this isn’t something that will work. It’s not something anyone would want. Tell your Professor he should stick to teaching. Well, thanks for the coffee. Best be getting back,” he said smiling and tapping the pen to the pad, slightly nodding.
“Ah well, nothing wrong in asking, shame though. Best be getting back, got class in an hour,” I said standing up, “Tell mum I said Hi.”
“Sure thing,” he said as I packed my laptop way and notepad and left. I stood outside for a second trying to remember where the old train station was, then headed in that direction.
Wednesday 12th May 2021 2.15pm
I stood looking at the mess that once was a major station. I remember going into the city from there many times a few years back. I remember when they closed it, there were a good few protests. Something about being ‘Cut off’ was said a lot by my parents.
My brother arrived a few minutes later, he had a worried look on his face.
“What’s going on?” I called out.
“Shut it, not here,” he snapped, “follow me.”
We headed along the railing of the train station, and down an alleyway to a dead end. At the end was a dark black door with the letter SOF tagged on it.
“SOF, what’s that?” I asked.
“Graffiti, I dunno, just be quiet,” he said while tapping on the door.
My brother wasn’t acting like he normally did around me. He seemed agitated, worried if somebody was following him.
The door opened and a young girl stood there. Dee. Dee had bright green hair tied in a pony-tail, dark leggings with a short blue skirt over the top and a plain white top and a blazer with badges all over it.
“Dannn! This is him?” she said greeting my brother and pointing at me.
“Him?” I replied as I was pulled into the building.
We entered and the door slammed shut and was locked. The loud locking sound made me think whoever was here didn’t want people getting in.
We entered what I guess was an old office, it might have been a part of the train station but I wasn’t so sure. There was hardly any light, the only light I could see was from the 30 or so computer monitors.
We entered a room, with three other people all sat around a table their faces lit up by their laptops.
“This is my brother,” he said waving his hand towards the three of them. And this is the SOF.”
“Hey,” I waved and gazed over them.
The man on the left was probably in his 50s. He had long grey hair and a red bandanna around it keeping it out of his eyes. This was Trevor. Trevor had been a part of the SOF since day one. He actually came up with the name in the 80’s. Next to him was another man, Gary. Much younger than Trevor probably around the same age as my brother, early to mid- 30s. He had a neat haircut and was dressed rather smart to be in there. He had a grey shirt and a Cardigan and some dark jeans on. Next to him was a lady, who looked about 50. She had dirty blonde hair, a red Chicago Bulls hoodie on and some old worn-out baby blue jeans. This was Grace.
“So,” said Gary looking me up and down, “you figured it out then, how you do it?”
“Figured what out?” I questioned with tremendous confusion.
My brother pulled a train over. “Here.” He pointed to the chair and we sat down.
“This is the SOF,” he continued.
“I get that, but what is the SOF, why are we here, I only wanted some help on VR and now I’m in some dungeon. What the hell is going on?” I started to stand.
“Sit down,” snapped Trevor.
“See boy, let me explain. The code you showed your brother isn’t just a simple code, it’s the code we’ve, I’ve been trying to figure it out. It’s the code that could change all life as we know it,” said, Trevor, as the others listened closely.
“It’s just an app for your phone. A game, a what if, bit of fun, nothing special,” I said. “My boy, do you know what SOF stands for?”
I looked around confused. “No, should I?”
“It’s Save our Future,” said Gary
“Yes, thank you Gary,” said Trevor “You see in the 80s I worked with a young student called Peter Pryce, he came up with an idea of changing the past to better the future.”
“That’s just time travel. He didn’t come up with that, time travels not a thing,” I said
“No, it’s not and no you can’t do it but with the technology we have nowadays, this code not only allows people to see the past but we can communicate with our past selves, thus changing the future.”
I was taken aback by what he was saying.
“No, rubbish. You’re all smart enough to know, if you change the past then, that timeline won't exist anymore, therefore this conversation never happens, so it obviously doesn’t work the way you think it will,” I said standing.
“This is only for fun to, see what it would be like. It’s like a replay. It takes all the CCTV footage of you, scrambles that all together, to give you a 5-minute clip. I dunno all of it, that’s what Professor P told me. He just wanted my help to make it VR.”
They sat in silence then Trevor, Grace, and Gary all lent in.
“This Professor P, doesn’t know what he’s got, does he?” said, Grace.
“Time travel and changing the past isn’t a thing, this code isn’t your holy grail,” I said as I left the room.
“How the hell do I get out of here?” I called out as I walked which I thought was the way I came in. I heard footsteps jogging towards me catching me up.
“Yo, what you doing?” said the voice.
“Leaving,” I said turning around and facing my brother.
“Dan, look, they have some wrong end of the stick, it’s not what they think it is. It’s just” I was cut off.
“Just fun, I know. Wouldn’t it be cool though,” he said smiling.
“Well, yeah. They are talking time travel and well that messes with everything,” I said.
We continued to walk around the old building, I couldn’t tell if he was just trying to keep me there or actually showing me the way out. We had walked around for about ten minutes now and this was getting silly I thought.
“Why you keeping me here,” I asked.
“I’m not keeping you, you’re free to go,” he said with a laugh in his voice.
“Does mum know your friends are wannabe time travellers, I mean, she. I. We. Although you worked for some fancy computer tech company,” I said turning to him.
“I do, only this is more of a revolution company,” he replied with a slight smile on his face. “Revolution!? You’re the smart one, you’ve seen all the films and read all the books. How can time travel be possible if we are having this conversation. Whatever you ‘Change’ in the past will affect us now,” I said in a determined manner.
“You just don’t get it brother.” As he opened a door and bright sunlight filled the darkened hall. My eyes squinted as I stepped out and the fresh air filled my lungs.
“It is possible,” he said slamming the door behind me.
Wednesday 12th May 2021, 5.54pm
I reached University just before 6pm and headed straight to Professor P’s office. I entered into a complete mess. Something had happened here and it wasn’t a party. The hard drives had gone, all the mobile phones smashed. Had the SOF come and taken everything? Where was Professor P? I looked around for any clues, turned over the rubbish left behind. In a panic, I took out my phone and called my brother. The phone rang a few seconds before he picked up.
“Hey, have you see the light?” he asked.
“What the hell have you lot done? Where’s Professor P?” I yelled at him in a heat of rage. “Wow, calm down. Done what?” he questioned.
“You know what, your stupid idiot gang have come and taken all Professor P’s work and trashed his office.” I yelled with even more anger.
There was silence for a few seconds then he spoke.
“We didn’t do it.”
“Bull!” I yelled again
“Someone else knows about this. Who have you told?” he asked.
“Just you and you told your mates and they must have told someone.” I snapped back. “Look, it wasn’t us. We know how important this is we just wanted to help you expand. it” “IT’S NOT A FUCKING TIME MACHINE!!”
With a flash, the room was back to normal. Back to its original form, no tables, no computers, no extra mess Professor P had put in here.
I had a horrible feeling, I became extremely dizzy to the point of nearly fainting. I grabbed hold of the shelves and stumbled out the room.
Wednesday 12th May 2021, 6.23pm
Everything was the same, just cleaner. My brother was right. It was a time machine. Whoever took the stuff from Professor P’s office had done it and now I’m in an alienate timeline. The dizziness came back. Who did it? The SOF? Someone else and what had then changed? I headed to the library, not passing a single person. It was eerily quiet. The library normal full of students and staff was empty. I headed to the closest computer and sat down. There was a sharp prick in my backside and I jumped up. I yelled in pain and felt what could be described as a tack pin stuck in me. I pulled it out and gave another howl of pain and gently sat down and went online. I don’t know what I was searching for, any news, past news events. Where was everyone? After a few pages, I landed on it.
‘WAR!’ A news article dating Wednesday 28th February 2018. As I scrolled down, the article was all about China and America on the brink of war after America launched a nuclear weapon on North Korea only the missiles landed in Hong Kong.
With a bright flash, I was back standing in Professor P’s office. I came over all dizzy again and grabbed hold of the shelves to stop me falling again. Standing in front of me as my vision came back was Professor P and Trevor.
Wednesday 12th May 2021, 6.28pm
“Welcome back son,” said Trevor with a smile on his face.
“Take it easy, Johnny. Have a seat,” said Professor P pulling a chair up.
“What the hell happened?” I said rubbing my head to get the dizziness to fade.
“Well, you had a look at what happened if America tried to nuke North Korea,” said Trevor. “How? I didn’t have any headset on or anything. How is this possible?” I asked extremely confused.
“This whole room is one big device,” said Professor P.
I looked around, everything looked the same.
“How do you two know each other?” I questioned them again, I wanted answers.
“How’s your bum,” said Trevor.
I looked at him confused, how did he know? The pain came back.
“Can we see it?” Said Professor P.
“What? NO! I’m not showing you my ass,” I said slightly laughing with a slight bit of fear in my voice.
“We need to know if you have any marks from you visit,” said Trevor.
“Marks? This is insane,” I said standing up, getting flustered.
I looked around at all the servers and monitors and back to Professor P and Trevor when my phone vibrated in my pocket. I looked at my smartwatch to see a notification from my brother. The message read ‘LEAVE’.
I looked back at the two of them to see Trevor had a gun pointed at me.
“Woah!” I yelled in total fear “What the hell are you doing?”
“You should have listened boy, now things have to change.” He turned and fired the gun at Professor P. I screamed out in sorrow and anger. As he turned to aim at me, I grabbed the shelves and pulled them down on him and ran straight out the door. I could hear gunfire and crashing sounds. I ran and I ran, I left the University as fast as I could go as I reached the front entrance of the grounds that same bright flash.
Monday 10th May 2021 12.35pm
The bright flash faded, my head was spinning. My vision had started to come back and sat in front of me was Professor P. He had the biggest grin.
“Well?” he asked “How was it?”
“What the hell just happened?” I sluggishly asked. “You tried my app,” he said smiling, “You think people will like it?”
“You’re telling me, that wasn’t real? None of it”
“Nope, it was my new VR app. I asked you to test it for me and you didn’t mind trying it out. You put the headset on and I choose the scenario, I went with what if you helped me build it,” he said smiling. “Shame you had to ask for help and I got killed by biker Santa Claus, but hey at least we know now.”
I was in total shock. I coughed and spoke. “You could see what was going on?” I asked.
“Oh yes, I have a feedback to my computers and I can add little things to the program and take them away, it’s fun. Remember this is only an app. It’s only a game. None of it’s real.” “Well, Sir that’s one hell of a game,” I said standing and heading to the door
“Keep this between us, there’s still more work to do, and remember what happens if you tell,” he smiled.
As I opened the door I turned and said, “Yeah you die...” I left the room.