Spectators of the Time Machine, Chapter 2
“Oh hey Rickey,” it was rare for Rickey to get to the store before Dan came to open up. “You’re in early, what’s the occasion?”
“This is it. Today’s the day Ron Steel goes back. I have to see what happened.”
“Oh that TV nut job with the waving flag video behind him when he talks?” Dan said.
“Yeah, he said he was going to go on his trip to kill Hitler today, I’m dying to see the paper.”
“Yeah, you can’t wait to get in to work so you can sit around not working?”
“Pretty much,” Rickey shrugged.
“Don’t you get a newspaper?”
“Yeah… at the store… that’s why I’m early,” Rickey smiled.
Dan opened the store, turned on the lights and opened the registers. He asked Rickey to turn on the store music in the back as they waited for Charlotte on her way to pick up the papers from the corner store.
“Good news, boys! I can read Italian!” Charlotte exclaimed as she burst through the door.
“What the hell?” Rickey was confused.
“The newspapers are all in Italian. I’m going to have to read it to you.” Charlotte smirked.
“Great, and I’m stuck with a store full of English language comics and video games and everything out there is in Italian. Every other day it’s something…” Dan grumbled.
“The worst part is that I have to sit through listening to you telling the story,” Rickey said.
“It’s like I’ve stolen the experience of reading it from you. I’m spoiling it for you! This is the best!” Charlotte’s smile widened.
“Just read it! You’re making it me sad on the inside!” Rickey acted as though the suspense was giving him pains in his stomach.
“Oh, I love it,” Charlotte froze to make Rickey wait just a little longer and giggled manically. “Okay. It looks like your guy Ron Steel did go back to World War I to the front. He saw a good bit of trench warfare, the Germans made a dramatic run into no-man’s-land and he waited for the battle to end and for the officers to give a message to their runner… who was a young Adolf Hitler… so Ronnie boy there had read a whole bunch of historical accounts of this battle beforehand and he knew exactly where Hitler would be during the battle and after, so when Hitler was running a message and was out of sight of anyone else Steel tackled Hitler and said…”
“Oh this’ll be good…” Rickey grinned, immersed in Charlotte’s telling of the story.
“ehhh. ‘Sic Semper Fi’,” Charlotte groaned. “Oh he even botched the extremist catch-phrase.”
“Oh god! He mixed the ‘death to tyrants’ crap. When Timothy McVey was arrested he had the latin phrase on his shirt that was a reference to John Wilkes Booth. Steel mixed it with the motto of the Marines,” Rickey buried his head in his hands then looked up, “did he kill him?”
“I guess that’s ‘Thus always faithful’ or something, I don’t know, I studied Italian, not Latin… Yeah, his paranoia, extremism and general stupidity betrayed him there… They wrestled around in the mud for a bit before Ronnie pulled his knife out to stab him in the heart, leaning his whole body weight on the knife until little Adolf’s pulse had stopped for several minutes. Then he snuck away from the body to travel back.”
“Wait… why is everything Italian?” Dan asked.
“It seems that without Hitler as the dynamic mouthpiece of fascism for German after World War I, there were still fascists and terrible death camps and atrocities, however, Mussolini was the dominant leader for the axis leading up to World War II so they actually avoided many of the boneheaded tactical mistakes Hitler insisted on in his timeline. This all seems to have resulted in the Axis winning the war and occupying America among other countries,” Charlotte said.
“Why don’t these rich assholes ever go back to see Mozart or Lead Belly or Houdini or Shoeless Joe Jackson like before? Why don’t they travel back just to observe history?” Dan’s frustration was boiling over.
“It’s a prestige thing to go back and say ‘I fixed it, I changed the world.’ It’s not enough to observe if you’re so full of yourself you think you can do it better if you participate,” Charlotte said.
“Yeah, they say ‘I spent the money to go, I’m going to make the most of it!’” Rickey said.
“But they always screw things up for us. Every other week we’re accepting a new currency or suddenly Nintendo is obsolete and everyone wants games for their next gen Sega or Atari system. Or suddenly no one has ever heard of Batman because to them Bob Kane was never born and Batman was never created. Yet we still have fifty years of books on the wall featuring some weirdo in a bat costume and his boy companion who wears just a skimpy tee-shirt and briefs and the police come in wondering what kinds of perversions we’re peddling!” Dan said.
“But… Hitler was killed, and that’s kind of the number one thing to do if you do have a time machine,” Rickey was confused.
“Yeah, he killed Hitler, but he couldn’t get rid of fascism, or hatred, or murderous assholes trying to be the number one tyrant. The only way to beat those things is by exposing them, not by killing them because that only makes you just as bad as them,” Dan sighed.
“Kind of like how Batman vowed never to kill!” Rickey proclaimed.
“Who?” Charlotte smiled.