I had been waiting so long for the day to come. Noname finally signaled me over the local network that it was ready to send me back to the past. It was hard to believe! No more lasers trying to kill me, no more C# cramming or world salvation. Going back to my calm life, to the world that I understood. I wasn't sure if I could take anything from the future back with me, but I'd been collecting a little bag of things that I found interesting from this time. Some viruses, my favorite coffee cup, and one of the books about human-machine relations. I was done with the future for now - time to go!
Ritchie must have felt it somehow and knew that I wanted to disappear. He
was just about to knock on my door when I swung it open, ready to leave
everything there behind.
"Hi, Teo! How's your preparation for the exam going? Did you have a good sleep?" He asked.
"Fine, thank you, Ritchie. But I really need to use the bathroom. Can you please let me by?"
"Sure thing, Teo, no problem. As soon as you explain me why you're taking this bloody bag to the toilet? Is it filled with rolls of toilet paper? Or maybe it's full of toothpaste? Let me check!" Ritchie made a grab in the direction of the bag.
"Oh, I forgot that I still had it with me. Just some snacks for later - no need to check it. Let me just leave it here." I tossed the bag on the bed and closed the door.
He didn't show any signs of moving anywhere. "Ritchie, what did you want to
discuss? I'm guessing you didn't come by just to check how my preparation
"You're a clever one," he replied. "I'm here to accompany you to the Exam. It's time!"
"Wow, now? Right now? Not even time for a bathroom break?"
"No Teo, the time has come. Follow me," he said, adding quietly, "They get angry if you make them wait."
The room was empty except for two pieces of furniture in the center: one
table and one chair. Infinity was standing near the table and gave me a nod
as I walked in.
"Hi Teo, nice to see you," she said. "This exam is just a formality; we all know that you're a good programmer. However, it's an important formality. This time you can only use what you have in your head. No local network access or help from other resistance base members. You must solve these tasks without any help. As soon as you finish, you'll get your ticket to Wonderland . Go ahead!"
"Good job, Teo! As expected, you easily passed the exam! What did you think
of it?" Infinity asked.
"Not as hard as I expected. Do you mind if I visit the restroom quick?" I replied.
"Sure, you deserve a break. Come back this afternoon; we need to discuss your future in Wonderland."
I walked out of the room as calm as I could, and then picked up the pace. Floor, elevator, lowest button in the column, corridor... everything was a blur. I thought that I was just walking quickly, but I was actually running faster than I had in quite a while. I opened the door where Noname was. No tricks, it was in the middle of the basement, as usual. Noname noticed me immediately.
"Good job, Teo!" Noname said. "I saw the results of the exam. Fascinating! I
can't believe you started learning C# just a little while ago."
"It doesn't matter, Noname. Bring me home!" I replied.
"Not a problem, I respect my part of the deal," Noname answered.
Lights started blinking and a number of faint clicking noises started to fill the room. In another instance, I might be curious as to how it all worked, but all I was thinking at this point was "Faster!"
Suddenly, a portal opened to the left of me. Yeah, I should have been
surprised, but after all that I've seen in this world... almost nothing can
surprise me. "Is it safe?" I asked. I'm also not that naive anymore!
"Yes," Noname said, sounding confident.
"And it goes back to my time?"
"Yes, all calculations are correct, as you've repaired my modules. If there are no mistakes in your code, then there are no mistakes in my calculations."
Great, now the responsibility was on me. Wish I knew that before. Anyway, it doesn't matter. Time to go.
I made a step toward the portal, touched it with a hand. Everything was fine; no pain, and it seemed like the portal was safe and not headed straight for the mouth of a volcano. Ok, here I go, I thought. Right now. One step forward.
Just a little step...
What was happening? Why could I not just step through? I couldn't understand - I had waited so long for this, but I could not will myself to take this last step in the long progression!
Nothing worked. The portal sat idle. I sat idle. Noname was also surprised.
"Is everything ok?" Noname asked.
"I don't know... I just... I don't want to go there." I answered.
"Are you afraid of it? You have experienced teleportations only twice your life, and according to statistics, things that people met less than 10 times in their life are by default considered to be dangerous, because the amount of experience depends linearly on..."
"Please, Noname, just stop. It's not about the portal. It's about me."
I just started talking, saying everything that I had been too afraid to say. For what may have been the first time since landing in the future, I told the full, unadulterated truth:
"I don't want to go back to my time. My life was too usual, too casual... Nothing depended on me, nobody needed me. I didn't even have a dog!"
"What are you saying, Teo?" Noname wondered aloud.
"Look at me now - I'm a chosen one. Maybe it's my destiny, to save the Earth
from machines? What do you think, Noname?"
"I'm a machine, Teo..."
"You know what I meant. From evil machines. But really, when I think about it, I like programming, and I like the power that it gives me in this world. Why go back to my time, where I'll forget all of this as some strange nightmare?"
"Don't ask me, Teo. You just spent a lot of time fixing me with the singular goal of me opening this portal and you getting out of here. Now it's in front of you, and you think you don't need it. I'll probably never understand you humans," Noname quipped.
"You're right, Noname. I should stop asking others what I should do. Close the portal. There's more to be done here. I'm going to Wonderland ."