Disclaimer: see previous chapter.
“Okay, when are we now?” Penny asked no one in particular as the strange quintet caught his or her breath from the last time traveling trip. “That’s the right question, correct?”
(Even as she asked, Howard jumped off the time machine and laid prostate on the ground, gasping about “Sweet, sweet oxygen.”)
“Yes, but there’s no reason for sarcasm,” Sheldon said crossly, “for we have almost crashed into that tree.”
“What tree?” Howard stopped gasping and looked upwards. “Aren’t we home?”
“The abundant wild vegetation and the lovely twilit morning atmosphere aren’t convincing enough?” Sheldon went into sarcasm overdrive (for him). “Koothrapoli, explain to Wolowitz-“
“I have a better idea,” Penny said quickly. “Leonard, what has happened?”
“Sheldon must’ve figured out that we went to a time period before the dinosaurs, Penny, since anyone who knows anything about history of life on Earth knows that trilobites happened before dinosaurs. I’m not sure where we have ended up now, though,” Leonard admitted. “Sheldon?”
“Here’s what I know,” Sheldon replied with somewhat less panache than his usual. “Momentum equals mass times velocity, and the time machine wasn’t designed for four or five people. When we all got into it, there was too much mass for it to handle, it accelerated too fast, and it overshot the Mesozoic by a wide margin – judging from the thin oxygen, we ended up in the early Paleozoic rather than just Paleozoic, Leonard.”
Leonard glared at his friend but said nothing; naturally, Sheldon continued unabashed. “Sadly, going back presented a different side of our mistake. If going to the past produced too much mass and energy, going back must have created too little or maybe this time machine is designed to go backwards to the past or forwards to the future rather than to return to our present.”
“Makes sense. The time traveler in the movie did spend most of his time in times others than his own,” Leonard nodded in agreement.
“As fascinating as this sounds, when are we going to get back?” Penny asked as she and the others settled around the still prone Howard and listened to the morning chorus. Unlike a modern morning, there was no bird song, but there were plenty of insect and amphibian noises instead.
“When the time machine powers up, of course!” Sheldon shot back, “and no, I don’t know when it’ll do that. Considering that we almost smashed into that tree, I wouldn’t bet on a happy ending!”
“Well, that depends. Maybe this is just modern New Zealand, and a flock of sheep is going to come over that hill crest at any minute,” Penny was not backing down.
“Doubtful. The smallish pterosaur sitting on the tree branch to Leonard’s right implies that this is the time of the dinosaurs indeed. Congratulations Penny, you got your wish!”
“At least I had a wish!” Penny said flatly, “and lived long enough to see it come true. You guys may be my friends, but you do not like to move out of your labs and apartments, do you? Where is your sense of adventure? Where is your love for the Jurassic Park the movie?”
“I found it – both the movie and literary adaptation of the movie – far inferior to the original novel of Mr. Crichton,” Sheldon said in his more usual, self-important manner, but before Penny or anyone else could reply, someone else did.* * *
“So, this is where that time machine had finally ended up at!” the voice was human, female, English but with an accent rather reminiscent of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, though no-where as refined as theirs. “Got to admit, your people aren’t exactly whom I imagined you to be!”
“Er, excuse me, but who are you? And have you come to bring us back home? Please say yes, because we think our time machine isn’t up to it!” Sheldon said quickly, hoping that Howard will not start flirting with the newcomer (who was good-looking enough, even if a bit old than Howard’s usual preference) and will not piss her away.
“Yes, I am,” the woman nodded calmly. “I’m afraid that I will have to confiscate your time machine, though: you received a functional model only by mistake and you don’t have a license – or training – to operate one. You’ll get your money back, of course.”
“Well... easy come, easy go,” Leonard exhaled, not really caring about the money. “I really wish we could’ve seen some dinosaurs, though.”
“That we can do,” the woman said, smiling slightly. “In fact, you almost had seen them yourselves. Follow me.”* * *
Within few moments, the gang found themselves at the edge of the forest that was actually located on top of the escarpment (they were lucky that their time machine only almost crashed into a tree – few meters to their right, and they would have found themselves at the edge of a very steep slope instead.
“Down there,” their self-appointed guide said quietly.
They looked, and sure enough, there was a dinosaur – as big as a bus, with a long, thin neck and long, thick tail that was almost like a triangular two-by-four. The dinosaur was busy munching upon some plants.
“Whoa!” Raj gasped. “Holy cow!”
“And there’s the wolf,” the woman said mildly. “The wet season has started only one or two weeks ago, so the predators are really hungry and daring right now.”
The predator in question chose this moment to make an appearance: probably no more than half the plant-eater’s length, it did its best to harass the other dinosaur all the same.
“What’s it doing?” Howard blinked. “There’s no way it can take on that mother on its own!”
“And it won’t,” the woman agreed. “The hatchlings are a much softer target. See them?”
For few minutes they didn’t but eventually they became aware of some movement in the ferns, and a short while able, they were even able to see two or three much smaller and faster versions of the original herbivore, huddled at its feet, away from the carnivore’s snapping jaws.
This situation went on for several minutes, until the hunter decided that it had enough and left. “And that’s that, folks!” the woman said brightly. “You want to see more, you’ll have to buy one of our company tours officially. Here is our card.”
There was a pause. “There’s a company offering time-traveling tours?” Leonard said incredulously.
“Yes, there is – ours,” the woman said cheerfully. “We’re mostly a European company, but we’ve got a branch in L.A. as well – that is where you got your time machine from, incidentally.”
“But we weren’t supposed to get it?” Sheldon frowned suspiciously.
“You weren’t,” the woman nodded in agreement. “The machine wasn’t supposed to go on a public sale either. There are going to be words with the head of the L.A. over this matter, believe it!”
“Yes, well, anyways, can we go now?” Sheldon said crossly: he really had wanted to save the day by restarting their time machine single-handedly.
“That depends. Kuro?”
“Done,” spoke a contralto voice from behind the five. “Their damage is fixed, Cthulhu was sent back to where he belongs. They can leave now.”
And before any of the five could ask what Cthulhu of all things had to do with this, the Mesozoic forest and everything else around them vanished before their eyes.* * *
“Well, that was out of ordinary, even for an ‘anything-could-happen-Thursday’,” Howard commented as soon as they realized that they were back in Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment, sans the time machine – in its place lay an envelope with the same amount of cash that Leonard had spent on it in the first place. “Has anyone held onto the company card?”
“Yes, me,” Penny said brightly, “and now that that’s all over, and we saw a dinosaur – even several dinosaurs – who feels like buying me take-out dinner?”
“Now Penny, we already took you on a ride as an apology,” Sheldon began, but Leonard interrupted him:
“I’ll show you,” Penny said slyly, and they were gone.
Raj and Howard exchanged glances. “You know, I am rather hungry myself, and this is still ‘anything-could-happen-Thursday’. Guys, wait up!” And they ran after Penny and Leonard. Sheldon, for his part, just sighed and followed them.
And that was the end of their time traveling adventuring – at least for a while.
PS: Of course, there was still a little matter of Cthulhu, but that did not surface up until a good deal later in time either.