PrologueControl stood in front of the mirror gazing at the dark circles beneath his eyes. The chocolate colored circles reminded him of the man he no longer was. He did not want to be in control, he just wanted to be Control again. He wanted to find the man he knew existed in a parallel universe. He splashed the cold water on his face and moved his hands gently to feel his thirty day old gray beard. There was only one exit.
Ctrl-Z"I wanted to be a painter but became a civil engineer. Then I learned a programming language and joined a software firm. I wrote software programs, then I managed people who wrote software, then I managed people who managed people who wrote software, then I managed people who sell software, last month I got promoted and now I manage the entire company. What next? This is a rat race. I chose a wrong career. I was better off becoming a painter" I said pouring black label in my glass. The professor sat benumbed in front of me sipping his vodka and smirked. I was trying to learn guitar at a local school and that's where I had met the professor. Our similar penchants had made us friends and time permitting after the music class we would drive to his house and talk over drinks. He was a nice man and I enjoyed his company. "Mr. Khurana! Relax, I am sure you are painter in some universe, may be a dead one whose work became popular posthumously. Who knows? Right here in this universe you are an IT manager. Beneath that fagging skin of yours you are nothing but a product of all the turns you took in your life's road and of all the people whose roads collided with yours. In a nutshell, you are a moving destination of your decisions. Stay happy with the universe you are in" he said. "What are you talking about?" I asked. "Parallel universes!" he replied. "I have heard of them many a times. Don't really believe in them though". The professor looked at his watch and said, "You got time Mr. Khurana because I have a story to tell". "Why not? Go ahead prof, always game for your company". My wife was away with our kids and I was not going to lose an opportunity like this. He poured another drink, took a deep breath and started narrating.
One of the prime reasons Science came into foray is man's desire to control. Man has always wanted to become God, to control nature, to control the present, to control the future and to control the past. Aavishkaar was a brilliant boy and he knew that he would become a scientist the day he put his hands on his 3rd grade science book. While others read comic books, his childhood was spent reading science fiction books. After completing his PhD in Cosmology from MIT he setup his own laboratory in Chennai and started working on the subject that had fascinated him since his childhood - time travel. He had married only because his parents wanted him to, his only passion being his lab where he would spend most part of day and night. His relationship with his wife was always strained. She needed time and he needed to travel time. He could not care less for what she wanted. "Once I have made this machine, I will control the past" he thought. Five years went by without any success. He never lost hope. On the personal front the relationship deteriorated but despite the friction his wife got pregnant. His research was his priority as always and he was not around to support his wife during the pregnancy. Aavishkaar first major breakthrough came the day his wife gave birth to a baby boy. It was a humongous machine that allowed him to time travel. The machine was unstable and he could not sustain in the past for more than two seconds but nonetheless it was a breakthrough. He was happy and thought of his son being lucky for him. He named the machine Control and rushed to see his son. He named the boy Control as well. Three months after he was born, Control's mother left his father and moved to Delhi taking him along.
Control was thirty years old and was married happily to Raatri, the love of his life, the woman he loved more than anything else in the world. His mother was no more. He didn't know who his father was and had never met him. As per his mom he had left them after he was born. Control was a proud man. He had worked hard to realize his goal of joining the police force. He was a fearless man and had risen quickly through the ranks. He had won many bravery awards and was destined to be a top police officer. It was the September of 2007 and he awaited the birth of his first baby. It was the day after Control got promoted to inspector in Delhi Police after he had killed a local mafia Babu in an encounter that he received a phone call.
"Hello! Control this is your father Aavishkaar. I am admitted in AIIMS. I am dying. I want to meet you son. I have to give you something". He hated his father but he was kind enough to meet the dying man. He met him in the hospital itself and realized he looked like his father.
"Control, I don't have a lot of time. I might have failed as a father but I am not a failure as a scientist. I devoted all my life to build a time machine, to be able to travel back in time, to be able to control the past. My research allowed me to travel back in time but only for short time durations. You must be wondering how is it possible? It's very simple how I built this device. At the time of big bang there was only one universe that started to expand. Apart from expanding, every split second a universe multiplies into infinite number of universes. Each one of these expands and gives birth to infinite universes and the chain reaction continues. So in a way, apart from the first universe every universe out there has a parent universe. The very first universe is known as the first generation universe and all universes that emerged out of it are called second generation universes and so on. The universes that belong to the same generation are known as sibling universes. All of us feel as if we are moving in this world, but in reality it is simply a transition of the universes. A universe never dies and thus the past and the presence coexist in form of these universes. There is a universe out there where I am reading my 3rd grade science book. We move from one universe to another through universe orifices. These orifices are everywhere around us and connect a universe to its parent and all the child universes that came out of it. I built a device that can hook up to your brain, read the event you are thinking of at that moment and back trace the exact path, the exact parent orifices from your current universe to the universe in which that event is taking place right now and transport you there". He opened up a small case. The case had a silver headphone like device and a small white remote control along side. "I give you Ctrl-Z, this is my gift to you. You will find the instruction manual in the back pocket of this case. If not for this, I wouldn't even have called you up. I can now die in peace". Control's mother hated science as much as she hated her husband. That's why she always ensured that he never studied science. Control couldn't make a lot of sense of what his father had told him that day and unaware of the power he had with him he drove back to his office.
He got home later that evening after having a couple of drinks with his colleagues. There was no electricity. It was the last day of paying the bill and he had completely forgotten about it. Raatri had lit up the house with candles. She was visibly miffed. "I knew this would happen when I asked you to pay the bill in the morning. You always procrastinate these things. It's always me who has to take care of it. For you it's only about your work and your friends". He knew no words he said would calm her down. He said a mild sorry and ate his dinner quietly. After Raatri was asleep that night he quietly slipped out of bed, picked the case he had hidden in a drawer, lit up a cigarette and got the instruction manual out from the back pocket.
Ctrl-Z InstructionsCtrl-Z is probably the most complex device in the world, yet the easiest of them all to use. Ctrl-Z allows you to travel back in time and undo an event. It consists of two components. The OT (Orifice Tracer) and the TC (Transport Controller). Please follow the instructions below to use the device.
1. Wear the OT. The two pads are supposed to rest on the two sides of your temple.
2. Press the yellow button on TC. This button initiates the OT. Wait for two minutes. Your entire skull will get covered in blue light.
3. Now think of a past event to where you want to travel to and once that memory is firm in your mind, press the green button on TC.
Device RulesThere are some simple rules that you need to follow to be able to successfully use Ctrl-Z.
1. You should clearly remember and be able to resurrect the situation in your brain to be able to undo it. You can't undo something you don't remember. This also means you cannot travel to a universe or a location you are not supposed to be part of.
2. Undo operation is just one piece of the puzzle. You need to complete the event when you perform an undo. The void needs to be filled. You can of course alter the decision you made at that point in time.
3. You can only fill the void with an option that you had available at that point in time.
4. You can't modify the physical attributes of the surroundings. E.g. you cannot introduce a new object or remove an existing one.
5. You cannot exist in the universe you traveled to for more than ten minutes. After ten minutes you will be transported to a new universe which is akin to the universe you traveled from.
6. The tracer is able to keep track of all the universes you have lived through. The forward path it creates for you from the event you traveled to is based upon that trace. In a nutshell, in the new universe you are transported to every choice you made before and after the undo remains the same. However there is no control over the new choices that have emerged because of the undo operation. They just become part of your memory. You have no control over the new universe you are transported to. If you travel back and kill someone, you might find yourself in a jail.
7. You will remember what you had undone using Ctrl-Z but will not be able to resurrect the event clearly in your memory. This also means you will not be able to travel back to an event you had undone already.
8. You die in your current universe if you are killed in the universe you traveled to.
Control lit another cigarette. He doubted that the device would work. This is impossible he thought. A couple of street dogs were barking outside. Control settled himself on a chair and got the OT out of the case. The small instrument was quite heavy for its size. He put the OT on as described in the instruction manual and pressed the yellow button on the TC. The OT started to churn like a small mechanical toy and slowly started to glow blue. It seemed to him as if he was wearing a blue lamp. He closed his eyes and pressed the green button.
"Control! You are coming with me to the sports bar for the India Australia game, right? I think Yuvraj is going to crack it again" asked Avkaash. Avkaash and Control went back a long way. They had grown up together and were always seen together. They defined the term "best friends". Control did not respond immediately. It was as if he just came out of a spell. "No dude, I have to pay the electricity bill today. Sorry I can't make it, you enjoy". "Alright, you are going to miss this cracker of a game. Hope we make it to the finals" said Avkaash.
Raatri was sleeping. Ctrl-Z was neatly tucked in its case. The living room lights were on and Beatles were playing. Control was speechless. He almost fell off his chair. "The damn thing worked! This thing really works. I can't believe it" he jumped with joy. "I can use this machine to undo anything". He started to think of all the things he could undo, things he had done, things that he repented. He thought of lies he had uttered, promises he had broken, things he had done willingly which could have been avoided, things he could not do. With Ctrl-Z he could undo them all and how much simpler his life would be. His mind was racing with all the infinite number of possibilities that lay in front of him. "Destiny controls the world, I will control destiny. I will be my destiny. My father named me aptly. From now on I own the time. I will turn it back at will".
He wore the OT again and closed his eyes. He tasted beer, his head started to spin, loud music playing and then he saw her cry.
(To be continued....)