600-word Sci-Fi: Underground

2061. The year of sophisticated technology in various industries such as military, education, and medicine. Even homeless people had neuro-integrated display devices (NIDD). The archaic device known as smartphones, where bystanders could peer into other people’s screens, were long past its expiration date. NIDDs were chips implanted into people’s brains and allowed for unlimited possibilities. One could look at multiple digital displays from their retinas, blending virtuality with reality.

At the forefront of this technology was 17-year old Zack Hardaway, a software genius and expert hacker, known for single-handedly cracking down Orange’s electronic defenses resulting in over 60000 unemployed. This happened in the year of 2058, when he was only 14. Being a minor, Zack wasn’t sent to federal prison, but sent to work in one of the most archaic industries known to mankind, construction. This was his unwanted gift.

“Filling in this site supervision form is such a waste of time!” Zack, the incumbent resident engineer on-site, slammed his pen onto the rusted steel table. The form contained a table full of written Ss and an occasional NS, standing for satisfactory and not satisfactory respectively.

A knock came from outside his shipping container office. It was the foreman of the site. “Hey Zack, just wanted to let you know the bearing stratum for the footings will be ready for inspection by Buildings Department on Thursday.”

“Sure Patrick, anything else?”

“One more slight problem,” Patrick crossed his arms, with one hand grabbing onto his chin. “We’ve excavated a UBO.”

“UBO?”

“Unidentified Buried Object,” he twitched his head as a signal for the resident engineer to follow him.

Zack took out the utility plan with them as they headed out to the 4-acre excavation site. Most of the construction workers had their jeans leggings rolled up to avoid excess dirt to their already dirty jeans. Two puddles and three Coke cans later, the pair stared down eight feet into the cone-like excavation. The slopes leading from ground level to the excavated bottom was at a 30-degree angle. At the bottom-most tip was a shiny, yellow-grey-striped ball, with less than half its hemisphere protruding out from the soil.

Zack jumped past the temporary railing into the excavated zone.

“What are you, nuts?!” Patrick shouted at the top of his lungs, with an iron grip on the railing. “Don’t do anything stupid, like touching that time machine!”

The words time machine struck a mental note in Zack’s brain. He almost forgotten an ancient legend about a hooligan, called John T something, who claimed he came back from the future warning people about an inevitable World War III. Of course the war never happened, but the yellow-grey device seemed consistent with the John T legend. The resident engineer walked closer.

“Don’t be stupid!” The foreman threw his white hardhat into mid-air, revealing his hat head, a symbol of excessive hat usage. “I know you’re young, but don’t tell me you’re stupid too!”

The engineer was only six feet away from the UBO, while all the seven workers and foreman were more than 12 yards away, hands clenched and feet tense in their safety shoes. Zack took out his utility plan. No, the shiny object wasn’t a weird-looking water pipe or gas main. There shouldn’t be anything there.

The engineer touched the object with his work glove.

“No!” The foreman jumped past the railing he was previously gripping onto. But nothing happened to Zack. Perhaps the foreman did worry too much.

Mr. Hardaway took off his mitten and touched the object again. The object glowed dimly until it escalated to the brightness of Sirius.

When he opened his eyes again, he was no longer in the construction site, but in front of him was a person. She had hazel hair that extended down to her waist.

“Greetings earthling, my name is Emily Titor, daughter of John Titor.”

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