The control room was tense. Techs focused on the monitors in front of them, while, raised on a ramp, the Machine hummed, creating a disturbing optical illusion resembling a tunnel of rotating stars. The experimental time machine being built by Blue Origin and SpaceX under conditions of the greatest secrecy was about to undergo its most critical step, the installation of a singularity in its main drive. This would power the device and allow mankind, for the first time, to transport objects into the past and future and perhaps travel there in person. The control room was located on a large asteroid and was completely automated, though for this step, human input, directly from one of the Honored Founders, cryogenically frozen for this very eventuality, was required.
Robotic devices moved the singularity, only the size of a hydrogen atom and trapped inside powerful magnetic fields, into place. The system hummed at a higher pitch. Suddenly there was a noise as if spacetime itself was tearing apart, a loud explosion, and the Machine rotated faster and faster. The tunnel closed in on itself, disappeared, and everything stopped. Something had gone very wrong.
The Year 2019, Washington DC
In Washington, Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States, grumpily dismissed his “court” and sat in the Oval Office, brooding. Clearly, negotiations with N. Korea were going nowhere, the economy was slowing down, and he was tired of being the world’s laughing stock. However – all that was nothing. He was still the most powerful man in the world and fully intended to be re-elected in 2020. He sent an angry tweet to his followers, his fifth that day, and felt better at once.
The Year 1814, The Palais Kaunitz, Vienna, Austria
Donald Trump woke up with a terrible headache and looked around. Where the hell was he? It certainly wasn’t the Oval Office, nor was it Trump Tower or Mar-a-Lago. He was in a large room, elegantly furnished, with chairs, tables, and a great many books on tall polished wood shelves surmounted by marble busts, perhaps a library in NYC – but how the hell did he get here?
He looked around for his cellphone – this definitely required a tweet-and found he had mislaid it. Well, he supposed he could get another soon enough. Or check his Twitter feed online. He looked around. That was odd-this room was clearly a library, yet there were no monitors or carrels to be seen. It seemed a bit out of date for Manhattan. Maybe it was in Queens. He reminded himself to file a complaint with whoever was in charge.
A man wearing a fancy uniform came in. Trump asked him where he was.
“This is the residence of Prince Talleyrand in Vienna, Monsieur”, he answered, politely enough.
Talleyrand? Wasn’t that a horse? He remembered watching an episode of “Bewitched” years ago where a horse called Talleyrand was the main character. Maybe he was in South Carolina or something. That was horse country if he remembered rightly. But no – the fellow had said Vienna. This was getting weird. His German was nonexistent, despite his being of German ancestry. Yet he could understand the guy. Strange.
Just as he was wondering what to do next, the tall doors at the end of the room opened. The footman held the doors open and bowed deeply as two figures entered, a man and a woman. The man was in late middle age, dressed in what Trump thought was a rather dandified style. He had a high forehead, hooded eyes, a somewhat cynical expression, and a slight limp. He wore a dark blue-green velvet coat lined in white with a high collar turned up around a white kerchief and black silk knee breeches. There was a jeweled medallion on his left shoulder. He was accompanied by a much younger woman, beautiful in a rather intellectual way, with great black eyes, black hair, and the carriage of a princess. She was dressed in black silk with a wide lace collar and had a shawl draped over her shoulders. They were talking animatedly, and from what Trump could hear, about politics. Something about Russia… he pricked up his ears.
When they saw him, they stopped talking in surprise. The man came over to him:
“Who are you Monsieur and what are you doing here? This is a private house.”
“I could ask you the same thing,” said Trump truculently. “What the hell am I doing here? I was in DC five minutes ago.”
“DC?” asked the other.
“Yes. DC. Where the hell do you think I was? I’m Donald Trump!! Of course I was in DC, though I admit it’s a dreadful place – much rather be at Mar-a-Lago or playing golf. And where is everybody? The VP? My staff? My security detail? My phone?”
“Vous vous êtes trompé, Monsieur, this is the Palais Kaunitz and I am Prince Talleyrand, the French delegate to the Congress of Vienna. If you have no official business here, I am afraid you must leave at once. We are in the midst of sensitive negotiations.”
“I know all about those,” replied Trump. “If you want my opinion, never negotiate, it’s a sign of weakness. You need to go in there and tell them exactly what you expect – shout if necessary. Then beat them down until they agree with you. And if they object, threaten them with military action. Where the hell is my phone, anyway?” exclaimed the visitor, now red-faced with annoyance. “You don’t seem to have any phones here. What a dump, just like the White House.”
At this, the gentleman made a face. “Phones? What are they?”
Trump looked flabbergasted. “Phones- I need a new cellphone – mine seems to have gone missing. I need to send a tweet to my followers.”
“A tweet? Qu’est que c’est que ça? Monsieur, I assure you il n’y ont pas de tweets içi. I will be happy to provide pen and paper, however.” Talleyrand looked dubious. His companion looked at him, brows raised in question. Trump checked her out-she was cute in a cold sort of way. Probably just a secretary.
Talleyrand, whoever he was, noticed Trump looking at her. “Permit me to introduce my niece, the Comtesse Edmond de Périgord, M. Trump. She is my right hand and my official hostess at these talks. You must excuse us for a few minutes”. They walked away and conferred in a low tone.
“Uncle, I do not know what to make of the fellow. What on earth is he doing here and how did he ever manage to get in? I must speak with the staff. The doorman is not doing his job. He is clearly not attached to the entourage of any delegate I have met. He seems most vulgar and uncultivated to me and I don’t think I have ever seen such a shapeless, badly cut suit – it is an affront to the eyes. Shall I have him thrown out?”
“Hmm? Noooo – I think I will play this one carefully for the time being”, replied Talleyrand thoughtfully. “I have had some interesting intelligence from Metternich and I think it will be best if our visitor stays here at the Palais Kaunitz until further notice. He may be some sort of unofficial observer, though to be honest, one might have expected someone a little less uncouth. We can keep an eye on him here. Perhaps you could find him a room, my dear? Somewhere on the third floor, perhaps, well away from our official guests? And find him some decent clothes. You are right-they are awful.” Talleyrand took his niece’s arm and they walked away.