Archibald Throckmorton sat on his bed, as he often did, pondering why he had been given his ability. Growing up he had loved watching superhero movies and reading fantasy stories of magic and adventure, always dreaming of waking up one day and being thrust into a story all of his own. It had been a year since Archibald Throckmorton had entered into the full throws of puberty, and now, at the wonderful age of thirteen and a half, he had come to despise his puberty. Young Mr. Throckmorton had been given a half fulfillment of his childhood wish: he’d been given a superpower, but not just any superpower, he’d been given a really silly and seemingly useless one. Archibald Throckmorton had been granted the superpower of not only manifesting sloths, the animals of course, out of thin air, but also the ability to teleport them anywhere in history, both past and future. We won’t get into the metaphysics of it all, like how a child can manifest life from nothing, what goes on in the mind of the sloth when manifested and teleported, can the sloth reproduce, does this manifestation create an imbalance in the universe that will slowly lead to the destruction of all things if not contained? We won’t ask those questions, but Archibald Throckmorton will, and had, as he sits on his bed.
The first incident was quite frightening when it occurred. Archibald had been sitting at home watching television, his parents were having a driveway get together with the neighbors. The adults would sit out front on the driveway drinking wine, and the children would play out back. Archibald was four years older than the oldest child present and he, being an only child, didn’t feel too connected with the children, nor did he want to be. Alas, he remained inside, watching television, wishing he had a friend to spend time with, just not those kids, but a kid his age instead. He stared at the empty spot next to him on the couch, saying out loud, “I wish I had a friend.” His voice awkwardly cracking because of puberty. Immediately after the words left his mouth, a sloth appeared in the vacant seat, staring at Archibald with its sloth-y looking face, kind of smiling. Archibald yelled, not knowing what was happening. His father had been entering the house to grab another bottle of wine when Archibald screamed. Running in to see what caused the commotion, Archibald’s father, Constantine Throckmorton III, named after Constantine Throckmorton Jr. and Constantine Throckmorton Sr, of course, stood in silence, stunned.
“Is that a sloth?!” Constantine Throckmorton III asked his son with an odd mix of confusion and alarm.
“I think so!” Archibald Throckmorton replied. “I don’t know what happened!”
Desiring to see the sloth gone, Archibald willed that it would be. Suddenly Archibald could see through the eyes of the sloth, seeing the living room and its two inhabitants whirl out of existence, appearing a moment later in the backyard of his grandparents’ home, now directly facing his grandparents who were sitting on their back porch enjoying their morning coffee.
“Where did it go?” Constantine asked his son.
“It went to grandfather Constantine and grandmother Chrysanthemum’s house.” Archibald stated, learning that he could follow the sloth as it teleported. “But it was morning, and they were drinking their coffee.”
After calling the Throckmorton grandparents, Constantine confirmed that there was no sloth, though, he and Archibald were now debating if this had been a weird and unreal vision, or if the sloth would suddenly appear in the morning. The two were intrigued to learn that the sloth did in fact appear spontaneously in front of the couple the next morning, exactly as Archibald had seen.
From this moment on, Archibald had experimented with his ability, learning that there seemed to be no limitation to the number of sloths he could manifest, his current record being ninety-seven, though he did find himself getting tired when manifesting and teleporting sloths, this awareness informed him that it did take some small amount of energy to accomplish. Fortunately, Archibald could also make them disappear, but he couldn’t make a real, preexisting sloth disappear, a trip to the zoo had confirmed that much. Archibald soon began to control his power over the next year, learning that there also seemed to be no limitation to how far back in time or forward in time he could send them. It was, however, more difficult to control their time movement when Archibald was unsure of exact destinations and times. Places like his grandparents’ home were easier because he had real memories of their home. The past was easier than the future, especially if he used pictures or history books. Archibald could also see through the eyes of the sloths whenever they were in their teleporting state, however, this vision only lasted for about ten seconds in total, with half of that time being spent leading up to the teleportation itself.
At first, Archibald used his powers for mostly evil, or, at least for some morally questionable activities…we’ll stick to some of the PG ones for now. He would use the sloths to look ahead at exam questions, which would often take quite a few sloths as he would have to time their arrival and placement in his classroom almost perfectly, and he would need to send multiple sloths to see all the questions, given that he only had five seconds each time. This endeavor didn’t last long, as it began to scare everyone when they saw sloths interrupting the classroom to look at tests before vanishing. He would use the sloths to teleport into classmates’ bedrooms during the school day, knowing they weren’t home, in an attempt to find dirt on them. Archibald was quite tempted by the vice of blackmail, but he’s gotten better over the past year. He would use them to fight bullies at school. The sloths themselves wouldn’t fight, but he would run up to a bully, punch them in the face with glee, and then rapidly manifest a bunch of sloths to bury the bully. The bully would be too confused to know how to respond, nearly drowning in sloths. He would also occasionally teleport to the end of sports games being watched on television at home. This was requested by his father Constantine so that the family could make some extra money by betting on the winner. The future versions of the family just got used to sloths appearing in the living room on game day. People continued to get curious and ask questions of this quite odd phenomenon, and people were beginning to see its connection to Archibald Throckmorton.
Roughly thirteen hours prior to the start of our story, Archibald Throckmorton had a very curious thought, What’s inside of area 51? He did his research, learning as much as he could about the building and its specific coordinates, not wanting to teleport more sloths than he needed. Once he felt fully prepared, Archibald manifested his first sloth, gave it a salute, and sent it into Area 51. Nineteen sloths later, Archibald stopped, feeling satisfied with his endeavor, or maybe he felt horrified, he wasn’t sure. He sat on his bed, taking in all of the information he had just gathered. Unfortunately for Archibald, he was unaware that the U.S. government was now using all of its resources to figure out what had just happened. The government did not appreciate nineteen sloths appearing all over Area 51, some of which popping up in extremely classified rooms. The hunt for Archibald had begun…well, kind of. It wasn’t much of a hunt as it took the government a very short time to look into teleporting sloths, learning that there was one other place on Earth that any such occurrences had transpired, that being Archibald’s town and neighborhood. Once the location was identified, it was now a matter of quick investigation.
Archibald, in the present moment was still sitting on his bed, contemplating sloth things, now trying to forget what he had seen in Area 51, when he heard a knock on his front door. A few moments later, his bedroom door opened, causing Archibald to freeze as he watched both of his parents enter into the room with seven suited-up individuals. The second part of Archibald Throckmorton’s dream was about to begin: he was to be thrown into an adventure.
One of the suited individuals, a man, stepped forward and began to speak to Archibald. “You are Archibald Throckmorton?”
“And you are the one who can do that weird thing with sloths?”
Archibald was quite nervous, but still answered, trembling. “Yes.”
“Tell us everything about it.”
The room was quiet as Archibald told the entirety of his story, feeling uncomfortable at some moments and excited at others. The suited individuals respected his time, allowing him to speak fully, one of hem holding a recording device.
The man looked at Archibald’s parents, then back at Archibald. “Thank you, son. We’re going to need you to come with us.”
The family sat up in surprise, concerned about what would happen next. “You can’t take him!” Shouted Archibald’s mother.
“Ma’am, he will be coming with us, there is no debate. You are welcome to come along. Our intent is not to steal him, at least not in full. He’ll have a nice room and will be allowed guests and escorted trips out of his new home. The government needs him, at least for a bit of time.”
After a few minutes of fruitless deliberation, the family conceded, allowing their child to be taken away. The family made a few calls and sent a few messages to take care of their obligations for the next week in order to go with their son. Everyone packed their belongings, exited the house, and got into the fancy government cars, being blindfolded just after entering.
Their drive lasted two and a half hours before they arrived at their destination. The blindfolds remained on until they entered the building. Once the blindfolds were removed, the family looked around at the new space they had entered. It was a rather large enclosure, having multiple offices and spaces with glass walls, allowing the family to see through into most of the enclosed areas. In total, there appeared to be about fifty people, including the family. “This way.” The man invited the family to follow him down a corridor.
The group walked down the corridor and peered into rooms as they did so, learning that this corridor consisted of bedrooms and showers. “Archibald will be staying here.” The man stopped at a door, opening it. He then looked to the parents. “And you’ll be staying there.” He pointed at the room right next door. “There is a shared bathroom that you will use, but Archibald is required to stay in his own space. Go ahead and unpack and get yourself situated. We’ll be briefing everyone in thirty minutes.” With that, the man walked away, leaving the family to themselves for the next half hour.
“World War III!” The President of the United States shouted from the front of the room.
The family was now sitting in a conference room, all fifty or so individuals on site joining for the briefing. Archibald never thought he would be this close to a President, but here he was, hearing the leader of the free world screaming World War III.
“We have found our way to prevent future catastrophes, and, with luck, guarantee the avoidance of a third, and likely final, World War. All thanks to this child.” The President pointed at Archibald. “This child can manifest sloths, as you all now know, which can be teleported through time, allowing the child to get a brief glimpse of the future.” The President continued on for a few moments about the impending plan, causing the Throckmorton family to become more and more uneasy. “We will have this child send sloths all across the globe to gain valuable information about our allies and enemies, and, as needed, send them into the future to ensure that our plans have gone accordingly.”
Constantine spoke up at that moment. “You can’t do this! He’s just a child, and from what you’re saying, it doesn’t sound like there will ever be an end to this request. You can’t expect our child to spend his life on this task!”
“Of course we can!” The President shouted. “We aren’t going to enslave the kid. He will get paid and work reasonable hours, all the while getting free government schooling on site. Look, we’ve worked real hard over the last twenty-four hours to figure this kid’s life out, and I think we are doing a pretty good job. We’ll get better over time, and you’re welcome to come visit him whenever you’d like. I’m pretty sure someone told you that, that detail was my idea, so you’re welcome.” The family was nothing short of mortified.
Archibald stood to his feet to speak. “People will get suspicious of the sloths though. Won’t this eventually come back around to me, it can’t work long-term, can it? People at my school were already getting concerned.”
“Well,” replied the President, “we’ve got people taking care of everyone who’s ever been affected by your skill, at least the ones we could get ahold of, so that’s not an issue. As for the foreign parties, who cares? We’ll have you pop a few sloths into the Oval Office from time to time to make sure we look like we are affected as well and boom, now no one knows what’s going on. It will look like some weird sloth-based phenomenon taking over the world. Like I said, the plan will look better over time, and we can’t afford not to know what’s happening in other nations. This is about safety, kid, and it’s a small sacrifice for you to pay in the grand scheme of things.”
The family continued to argue for minutes, but it was no use, the decision had been made before they had even begun to speak. Archibald Throckmorton had wanted so much to be a superhero, to have superpowers and go on fantastical adventures. Look at me now. He thought. The world’s stupidest and only superpower, given to a child, going on a government-controlled adventure. I want to give my superpower and my adventure back. A small tear fell down Archibald’s face. The meeting continued for roughly an hour, the first stage of the plans being communicated to all, including Archibald’s family, though they had been warned that if the information got out, they would be severely punished.
Later that evening, as Archibald sat in his new bed, pondering his life as he often did, a thought entered his mind. I’m the one with the superpower, not them. Why can’t I still have my adventure? A smile crept onto his face. Archibald laid down on his bed, smiling at the ceiling. It would take time, weeks, or maybe even months, but Archibald knew his plan would work. I control the creation and movement of the sloths, I can improve my power, I can learn anything and infiltrate everything. I’ll play their games for now, but I am the king of the time traveling, teleporting, spontaneously manifesting sloths! And I will have my adventure!