The food came. Mr. Cross dug in, as voracious as he had been at Golden Dragon. Mark was sure that if he had put a hand near the plate of chili fries, he would lose it. He watched Mr. Cross eat, the man was obviously starving, and contemplated what he had been told.
When Mr. Cross paused to sip from his coffee cup, Mark asked, “If it already happened – Pandora, and everything – why are you here?”
Mr. Cross set his mug down with a solid thunk – his hands were no longer trembling – and said, “Something went wrong.”
“What went wrong?”
“I don’t know. When I first started…traveling, I would return and everything was the same as always. But one day, I came back and Pandora was still raging across the planet. The world population was cut in half. Survivors barricaded themselves inside walled towns, anyone who so much as sneezed was lucky to be exiled. Technology existed, but the mindset of people, it was like the middle ages.”
“How did it go wrong?”
The old man pounded his fist on the table. “I don’t know!”
Mark jumped. A group of students stared at them, then turned to whisper amongst themselves. “Shh,” Mark said. “Calm down. You don’t know. That’s fine. But why drag me into all of this? I mean, you’re me. Isn’t this some sort of killing your own grandfather situation?”
“Maybe that was it. Maybe on one of my trips I killed Ashton Miller’s old man. Metaphorically.” Mr. Cross shook his head and for once seemed to have lost his appetite. He pushed the half eaten Double Burger away, and made a face of disgust at the chili fries.
“Maybe it wasn’t you. Maybe someone else used the time machine, or whatever, and caused the damage.”
“That’s not possible. There is no time machine. Not a wormhole, or any other sci-fi gobbledy-gook you can think of."
“Then, how are you here?”