Caribbean Stories

The Day Time Machines Went Kaput


5. The “Master” Race

PROFESSOR FRANK MARTINELLI ended the first part of the orientation by announcing that Professor Ludwig Friedrich von Stauffenberg would be the next speaker. But Professors Stauffenberg and Esch had slipped backstage during his talk. So excusing himself for a moment, he leapt down from the platform and went looking for his absent-minded colleagues. I took the opportunity to glance around the auditorium, having entered at the last minute just as the proceedings started. Lots of people here. I had no idea the project called for such a large number of assistants when I responded to the invitation to participate. Now that was unusual. Typically, it is the student who applies to a research project after they announce they are seeking assistants. Or in graduate school, the student can be awarded an assistantship upon admittance to an academic program. In either case, it is the student who takes the initiative. Here it was the other way around: the candidates for assistants were chosen. And I’m sure the choosing was not random. Then we were given a psychometric aptitude test that struck me as somewhat similar to the AFOQT, the test used by the US Air Force to qualify candidates for their officer training programs. Those who qualified were then asked to write a five hundred-word essay proposing two journeys to faraway lands and explaining their reasons for choosing those journeys. These seem pretty stringent requirements to me. After all, at AFROTC I did not have to write a travel essay and you are commissioned as an officer when you graduate. That’s barely a notch above lowly research assistant, what with the massive bureaucracy towering over you. But still, no essay required.
    Looking to my right, I discovered a gal from a seemingly distant land sitting two places beyond me. Made me wonder if one of the faraway lands on her essay was the USA. When you’re from South Asia, as I presumed she was, America must definitely qualify. The physicists would have no grounds for complaints: things are relative, they just told us. All of a sudden, she turned to me and smiled. Taken by surprise, I nervously smiled back and said hi.
    “Hi. Are you a physics major?” she asked.
    “Oh, no. I try to avoid the stuff. I’m from neuroscience.”
    “Wow! That tops rocket science.”
    That was nice of her. Made the nerd in me feel at ease. “Thank you. What about you?”
    “Computer engineering”, she replied.
    “Whoa! We gotta talk.”
    “Have to build the machine that will take over the world.”
    “Precisely. I’m Gabriel”, I said, stretching out my hand.
    “Yogita”, she returned, shaking mine. “Where would you like to go on your first time travel journey?”
    Now that was a perfectly sensible question I had given no thought to at all, unbelievably. How could I not have dreamed up a few trips like any normal person selected to be a time argonaut? My Top Nerd credentials were showing. Quick, tell her something. Anything! “Oh, I was thinking of… what… the construction of the Great Pyramid of Khufu! Yes. Big ol’ pyramid. Cast of thousands. Sphinx and all.”
    “That was a rather long project.”
    “Oh, I’m sure it was. I’m sure it was.” You dork! Tell her something that sounds halfway intelligent! “What about you?” What can I say; gotta keep the ball on her side of the court.
    “I would love to spend one day among the people of Harappa or Mohenjo-daro or Lothal, and see these peaceful, ancient societies before the invasion of the Aryans.”
    “Why, certainly.”
    “The Indo-Europeans may have contributed to, if not actually caused, the destruction of a far more advanced civilization.”
    “These Indo-Europeans.”
    “The consequences of this tragedy are still with us to this day.”
    “Goddamn Indo-Europeans.”
    “History could have been so radically different.”
    “Pip pip!”
    “The Aryan race spelled disaster for others as well as themselves.”
    “They are the scum of the Earth.”
    “I would say it is the great calamity of humankind: Aryanism.”
    “Hear, hear!”
    “In the broadest sense of the term.”
    “Absolutely.”
    “Of which we have not seen the end yet.”
    That stopped me. “We haven’t?”
    “No.”
    “You sure?”
    “Positive.”
    “Oh.”
    There was silence. Auschwitz popped up in my mind.
    “Now, that’s something we might wish to look into”, she said.
    “You mean…”
    “Yes, go see where this crazy mentality finally ends.”
    Not a pretty journey, I gathered. “I kinda thought we were going to Mars.”
    “I sincerely hope that we do.”

Posted:   28 Oct 2014
Revised:   1 May 2015


Image credits:

"Panoramic Boston". Boston as seen from the 26th floor of Student Village II at Boston University. Date: 7 June 2011. Original work by Henry Han (hequals2henry@yahoo.com). This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license via Wikimedia.

"Lothal, Lower Town" by Rashmi.parab. Date: 21 December 2011. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license via Wikimedia.


Additional information:

Boston University Computer Engineering website: BU ENG Comp

Boston University Neuroscience: BU Neuro

Boston USA.com

Wikipedia: Harappa

Wikipedia: Mohenjo-daro

Wikipedia: Lothal

Wikipedia: Indo-Aryan Migration Hypothesis

Wikipedia: Proto-Indo-Europeans