Three-quarters of the way through watching The Wrath of Khan with his daughter Alexis, the clock ticked over to a minute past midnight on Arthur Goldbury's 50th birthday.
At the end, Alexis wiped her eyes. Her bottom lip trembled. Arthur knew she didn't want him to see her crying.
'It's okay, honey,' Arthur said. 'You know Spock doesn't actually die.'
'I know, I know. But it's still sad.'
'What was your favourite bit?' he said.
Alexis composed herself. She was a tough little 12 year old. A tomboy. A real dad's girl. 'When Spock says to Kirk, 'I have been, and always shall be, your friend'.' And she slumped down from the couch to the floor, making fake dying gurgling noises. She was a drama queen too. 'Live long, and prosper.'
Arthur laughed. 'I like that part too.' But in truth, he preferred the wily Captain Kirk reprogramming the unbeatable Kobayashi Maru simulator. He liked a character who had balls. He backed winners.
'You'll always be my friend, dad,' Alexis said getting up off the floor.
Arthur looked her over. The light of his life. 'Me too, Alex.'
'Let's watch another one!'
'No, no, it's so late. It's past midnight.'
'It's your birthday,' she squealed. She bounced over and gave him a tight hug and launched into a loud, over enthusiastic version of 'happy birthday', and 'for he's a jolly good fellow' complete with jazz hands and an offer of an encore. His precocious dark-eyed girl, light of his life, his biggest fan, his partner in crime. His greatest achievement to date.
And that fact bothered him, that his daughter was his greatest achievement.
Arthur had come a long way from that small town in Vancouver island, from a poor childhood where men worked their entire lives at the local mill, where in the darkness of long, cold winters Arthur's imagination was set alight. He dreamed of a life bigger and brighter than they could afford. Fame and fortune - a life of adventure and travel to exotic lands that he'd read about in books from the library or heard about in stories on the radio. Places with beautiful women, plagued by civil wars, where good guys triumphed over bad, where heroes could be made. He started to write his stories, astounding his teachers and frustrating his father. A man needed a trade in his hands, his father admonished, to build his legacy.
Arthur didn't agree. He believed his legacy could be crafted. He was a magnificent storyteller, a hard worker and an opportunist. When he finished high school, he wrote for the local newspaper, and soon became its editor. He also took a job in radio. He hunted stories relentlessly. Crafted headlines. Collected ideas and squirreled them away for future novels and short stories. He wrote and submitted work anywhere he could be published - magazines, newspapers, journals, even Playboy. Any story that could be told, he could tell it, and had a knack for pushing the truth just far enough to be believable. His articles took him around the world, and the adventures he had were more fabulous than the facts he spun. He'd escaped the mundane life he'd feared at the mill and found himself in the company of intellectuals, artists, politicians, actors, writers and everyone in between, in backdrops more exotic than he'd ever imagined as a child. He'd escaped 'the ordinary'.
But it wasn't all glitz and glamour between long hard hours at the typewriter. There were chapters in Arthur's story he didn't like to read aloud. There were mistakes, bad choices and badder company he'd kept that necessitated a hasty escape from Canada very early on. There were more than a few opportunities he'd created, and many, many well-timed lies he told to get his foot in the door. People and places he tired of too soon and lost interest in as soon as their purpose was served. Two marriages failed, no doubt his fault. There was a restlessness in his soul that he struggled to contain, an anger in him, a drive to be anything but ordinary.
He'd settled down with his third wife in Sydney, Australia and they had Alexis. He founded a publishing company, and a creative agency, and for the first time he was in a position to write, really write. Then he was struck by... what, a midlife crisis? By writer's block. This great Arthur Goldbury, at half a century, a self-made man who had driven himself so far from that small, sorry town on Vancouver island came up empty. His greatest achievement, a 12 year old daughter.
When the invitation from Temporium, an agency that specialised in time travel experiences arrived, Arthur thought to himself, What would Kirk do?
'This will only sting for a moment,' said the Temporium technician. His nametag read 'Angus'. 'This canula will deliver certain drugs to your system, no doubt you've read up on it. While we're waiting, I'll have to give you 'the talk' about some of the ethics of time travel.'
'Temporal Prime Directive,' Arthur said. It was a concept he was familiar with, as a fan of Star Trek.
Angus grinned as he fussed with the IV and various syringes. 'You'd be surprised, or perhaps not surprised at all, about how many Trekkies we get through here. But yes, the Temporal Prime Directive is one of the key foundations of time travel ethics. As you know, we are one of only a handful of agencies, so the area is still in its infancy. But the premise is sound - we can't mess with stuff in the past. Similarly, you can't bring knowledge of the future back with you. And even if you did know what would happen, it's a glimpse into a multitude of possibilities, all based on decisions and choices... Opportunities.' Angus paused and thought about this for a moment, then smiled to himself about something. 'When you come back, we'll have a little debrief before I administer the amnesiac - that's a non-technical term for the drug that erases your memory of your adventures.'
Arthur looked at Angus very carefully. 'Ever make an exception?'
The technician's smile remained unchanged. 'That's a little above my pay grade.'
There was a moment where perhaps both of them considered the word 'opportunity'.
'That's an interesting accent you've got, Angus. A long way from home.'
Angus grinned. 'From Bonny Scotland, actually.'
'What's your surname, Angus?'
'Tell me about them...' and Arthur drifted into unconsciousness as Angus told him about the McGlynns.
The future was not as impressive as Arthur had hoped. It was cleaner. The sky was brighter. The headlines were just as bleak. Social media and technology continued to provide an open platform for the absolute worst of humanity. Politicians still dodged questions. People, he believed, had gotten dumber. There was still famine and disease, and now there was an undercurrent of paranoia fuelled by non-stop surveillance and disturbingly self-aware Artificial Intelligence. He retreated to his hotel and went about learning about the fate of Arthur Goldbury. His obituary read:
'... The magnificent Arthur Goldbury joked about being a 'late-bloomer', his most prolific period of writing being from the age of 50 his untimely death at 65. He revived the hard-boiled detective and spy thriller genres with heroes who have now become household names. His novels were cracking page turners, his characters famous for being intensely unlikeable, and loveable, at the same time. He was widely loved by the masses but loathed by critics who accused him of glorifying toxic masculinity. Those who knew him said his life, his character, mirrored his art. Remembered as a generous albeit cold and unsentimental man... Goldbury was often quoted, 'Write as though you are running out of ink and paper. Make every word, every moment, count. Nothing else matters.'...
One of times most influential writers of the 21st century. Arthur Goldbury passed away after a brief battle with cancer, due to an inoperable oesophageal tumour. He died with a pen in his hand.'
There were worse ways to be remembered, Arthur thought.
In the five days he had in the future, he devoured every detail of his career. He read and took meticulous notes of each of his novels, marvelling at his ingenuity. Where did he get this all from!
On the fourth day, Arthur received a call from reception. His grandson was here to visit.
Arthur came downstairs to the lobby bar, surprised and curious.
Awaiting him was a pale shadow of a man in his 40s. Balding, a little overweight, a weak chin and a hunch. He approached Arthur with a great toothy smile on his face. 'I'm Franklin. I just want to tell you, I am an absolutely enormous fan of yours. I can't believe I've been given this opportunity to meet you, under these such exceptional circumstances.' He had a lisp.
'Will they wipe your memory too,' Arthur hoped aloud.
'Possibly possibly,' he laughed, in a way that indicated he'd not picked up the full meaning
'So you are my grandson.'
'Apparently so,' said Franklin, offering his glass of beer in a cheers.
'My mother was Alexis Faulkner, nee Goldbury. She, uh, passed away some ten years ago.'
'Oh. I'm sorry to hear that... So young,' he thought, trying to do the math and failing.
Franklin waved the comment away. 'Thank you, but that's life isn't it. I'm just so amazed, I had absolutely no idea that Goldbury was... Well, you! Goldbury!'
'Well, surely she told you something of me as a child.'
Franklin's face dropped. 'I'm afraid not. Or rather, none of it that I'd like to repeat to you.'
Arthur wished Franklin had been a better liar.
'It seems that you and she had a falling out at some point before I was born. She... well, the picture she painted of you, so to speak, was not very... it was a very unpleasant falling out, I understand. We never had any pictures of you in the house, even. My father hadn't even met you.'
There was a heavy, long silence between them filled by sounds of the hotel bar - quiet chatter, clinking glasses, piano music and echoes.
'I'm sorry,' said Franklin, suddenly self conscious. 'I'm sure this must be quite a lot for you.'
It was. But for now, Arthur had a fan to appease.
'Well, what's done is done,' Arthur replied with a broad smile. 'I have no memory of the event. And I can't possibly be held to account for something I haven't even done yet, right?'
'Too right, sir.'
'So, tell me, then, which of my books is your favourite?'
Later, in the early morning gloom of his hotel room, Arthur discovered only one quote from Mrs Alexis Faulkner in regards to her late father Mr Arthur Goldbury: 'For reasons that shall remain known only to Mr Goldbury and myself, I will not be a recurring character in any of his narratives.'
What to do, he wondered, what to do, as he ate his final future meal of steak frites. It wasn't half bad, this manufactured meat.
He mulled over his future. His fractured relationship with Alex. This less-than-impressive offspring, Franklin. His remarkable career. His impending death. It was a mixed bag. It hurt, and he didn't like the hurt. It reminded him of his failings and memories that kept him up at night, that made him question himself and lose confidence. It reminded him of his drive to be better, and be greater, and go farther than that small, poverty stricken town on Vancouver island. It reminded him of his father, and how he'd never spoken to the old man again since the day Arthur boarded a plane to somewhere else.
In that moment, the decision was made for him. He had a trade in his hands. He held his legacy in his hands. He had to become the magnificent Arthur Goldbury. The man who knew a good opportunity, and how to tell a few, well-timed lies. No matter the cost. It was a shame, but he had to be remembered for more than just Alexis' father.
And it would start with a certain Mr Angus McGlynn.
'Welcome back, Mr Goldbury,' Angus chimed. 'Can you hear me, Mr Goldbury? Are you here with me?'
Arthur reached out for the youg Scots' arm and gripped it as tightly as possible.
'Before you do anything,' Arthur croaked, 'I have a proposition for you.'
Angus McGlynn, the Temporium technician resigned the following week and left for Scotland, on account of the death of a family member overseas. It is said he came into quite a lot of money from that family member - or from the local lottery.
Arthur sat in front of his computer. To begin, begin, he told himself. The first novel he would write was about Julius Castello, a hard-boiled detective set against a gritty future New York city. There were a few plotpoints he'd refined since his first reading last week and fifty years in the future. It was possible, he decided, to improve on perfection.
'Dad?' Alex was standing in the doorway of his study. 'You wanna watch a movie with me?'
'Ah, honey,' he said, sitting back in his chair. He shook his head, perhaps a little too dramatically, 'I have this God awful deadline looming over me. I shouldn't have taken that week off. I'm really behind in my work.'
She looked at her feet. 'Oh.'
'How about you start something, and I'll catch up?'
A week of exchanges like this and she was starting to get the picture. Something had changed in her dad. Something she had done, she assumed.
'Hey,' he called out as she sulked away. 'I have been, and shall always be, your friend, Alexis.' Ball's in your court, he thought to himself.
He listened to her footsteps down the hallway, and a moment before the door to her bedroom slammed shut, she shouted angry and unrepentant. 'Live long and prosper, arsehole.'
So it begins, the magnificent Arthur Goldbury told himself as his fingers rested on the keyboard. Crafting my legacy.