Spectators of the Time Machine, Chapter 3
The next day at Mastermind Comics Rickey was sullen. It was his day to pick up the newspapers from the corner store before work and he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He could not see the point of going through the motions picking them up if he was going to lose the experience of reading it on his own. It had been part of his day listening to the conversations in the store, reading the lifestyle section, figuring out the implications of timeline changes with Dan and Charlotte and the customers coming in and out of the store. The reading of the lifestyle section was the most important to him and he couldn’t bring himself to stare at printed words that he could not understand on that day. It would be a day of mourning for his daily routine.
“Why the long face?” Charlotte came through the door in the middle of the day. “I got the newspapers. You seemed to forget them earlier. I think you’ll want to see them.”
“Not today, don’t hurt me like this,” Rickey’s voice was sullen.
“Trust me, you’ll like them,” she smiled as she tossed a bundle of papers.
“Huh?” Rickey looked at the page on top. “English! Sweet, sweet English!”
“Woah, what’s happening in the lifestyle section?” Dan said.
“Um, let’s see… dut dut dut dut daah… Ah!” Rickey silently read aloud. “That tech guy, Chuckie Bender, the billionaire that gives all his money to build hospitals around the world, he’s never liked Steel and he really hated how his change made things worse, us losing World War II, and all, he had been staying in town, in the bubble and saw all of this, so he went back to fix it.”
“How the hell did he do that in pre-war Germany?” Dan said.
“He didn’t. He unglitched, the glitch,” Charlotte said.
“It seems he went back to when Steel was in college and outed him in a way that made him unhirable as a trustworthy pundit, in a very public way. I guess in one of his biographies Steel mentioned that he had overcame ‘sin’ after nearly getting in trouble for betting on his school’s games as he worked at the student radio station as a sportscaster. It turns out Chuckie Bender had learned that Steel was even more involved in the betting than he revealed and was even paying players to shave points while running his own dorm room gambling scheme.” Charlotte said.
“Oh damn!” Dan said. “Sounds like he did his homework before traveling.”
“Yeah, so it looks like Chuckie Bender went back to a game and turned on Steel’s mic just before tipoff as he was talking about payments and the point spread to a player just before an interview. That bit of sound went over the air live and was picked up by the media. It was used to take down this gambling ring and resulted in some serious sanctions for his school. After that no broadcaster wanted to touch Steel for a job because he was seen as completely untrustworthy seeing as his voice was at the center of this major sports scandal! His broadcast career never got off the ground and he ended up being a regional manager for a grocery store.” Rickey could barely keep still with excitement.
“Wow, he spent all that money just to go back to fix something and didn’t even get to see anything all that interesting,” Dan said.
“He stayed in town when Steel traveled to see what would happen and, I guess he was pretty excited to see all those classic cars driving around,” Charlotte said. “I still haven’t seen any weird side effects of the change, at least the timeline is the way it was, and fascism didn’t last beyond the war even though neither traveler could stop the horrors of the war or the holocaust.”
“I’ll tell you one thing, since it turns out I haven’t been watching Steel yelling on TV all these years, I definitely feel a lot more relaxed,” Rickey said.
“I thought you liked him?” Charlotte said.
“I did, but I would just feel so angry after watching him. Now I don’t know what to be angry about.” Rickey smiled.