The Man Who Decides

Have you ever considered it strange that nothing truly disastrous has happened to the human race – no single event of such magnitude as to stop life from continuing as we know it? No meteor strikes, no unstoppable plagues, no earthquake so large that it shatters every continent. These threats always seem to be waved at us by the media yet never materialise. This however, is not by happy chance.

In the year 1899, the renowned electrical engineer Nikola Tesla stumbled upon a discovery unlike any other. It became known as the Tesla Effect and is the one of the greatest secrets ever kept. By using an inconceivably high electrical voltage, Tesla discovered it possible to rapidly revert the charge of enough antiparticles to punch a hole in time. A wormhole existing between the present and any chosen date in the past through which man or matter could travel with ease. The wormhole however was volatile and could only be practically sustained for 30 to 40 seconds. But of course with the ability to travel in time those 30 to 40 seconds were more than enough – if the traveller failed to achieve their goal, they could simply jump back and try again until they got it right.

Seeing the potential of this discovery, along with a raft of other eminent scientists of the day, Tesla founded an organisation that would come to be known as SACH – the Society for the Aversion of Catastrophes to Humanity. SACH continued to grow over the years, recruiting the most talented scientists, humanitarians and soldiers to aid their cause when needed. Operating outside the interests of any single nation, SACH exists to this day – being called into action when disasters occur or dangers threaten the human race. Deadly viruses have been undone, monsters destroyed, invasions averted. Without SACH, the First World War would still be raging today and the Second would have ended five years later and with the nuclear annihilation of the entire planet. Chemical and biological warfare has never materialised because SACH has never allowed it. Only last year a meteor was supposed to have landed in Chile, carrying with it a pox so alien to our bodies that it would have obliterated over 90% of the human race.

But what of all the disasters that did happen you ask? What of the earthquakes and tsunamis, genocide and terrorist attacks. What about even those lost to cancer or hit by cars? Why not save everyone? The answer is because the Tesla Effect does not come without a price. In 1957 it was discovered that every invocation of the Tesla Effect has a serious negative impact on the earth’s stratosphere, weakening it each time and bringing the planet one step closer to a tragedy even SACH would be helpless to undo.

Since that day, the decision as to whether or not to exercise the Tesla Effect has fallen upon the shoulders of one individual – the President of SACH. For every proposal to rectify history, the President is provided with two dossiers. One, thick, contains all the details of what will, or has happened for not taking action. The other, far thinner, simply estimates how many years closer to environmental collapse the intervention will bring us. It is a heavy weight to lay upon one single man and as such, Presidents tend not to last long in the role. Since the declaration of the first President of SACH in 1909 there have been 96 different men and women in the position.

The current President of SACH is Dr Joseph Heuberger. His life is a lonely one – daring not grow too close to anyone, should he one day be forced to decide whether they live or die. He spends his days alone in his office on the 162nd floor of the Burj Khalifa building in Dubai. There he watches news channels, reads and learns as much as he can about the world – constantly preparing himself to make that awful decision about whether or not to act. His burden is a noble yet dreadful one. He is the man who decides.

Title image courtesy thewolf

Published in: on June 2, 2011 at 11:12 PM  Comments (11)  
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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This has the feel of a prologue to a superhero comic! A dark one, at that.

    • Thanks Tessa. It is a little bit dark, I wanted to explore that area of being a hero where you can’t always save everyone and that affects a person. Does feel like there should be more after it though doesn’t it?

      • Yes I think so. A story with the president as the main character, seeing how he deals with the pressures he’s under. Or even the life of an Ex-president trying to reconcile himself to the things he’s done. Both would be interesting! Tons o’ possibilities!

  2. I agree with the above comment this does have the feel of a prologue to something else…..

    • Hi Helen! Yes, I think after reading this back, you and Mrs Bazelli are right – it feels like chapter 1 of something. Would certainly be interesting to explore this idea more, not SACH and the saving the world story so much but perhaps something more personal to our President.

  3. I can certainly see it as a prologue, although I really enjoyed it as a standalone piece. Very well-done, you created an ominous atmosphere and made me feel the weight of the decisions.

    • Thanks Cathryn – glad you enjoyed this one.

  4. Intriguing concept. I like how it is initially proposed as all-powerful and then we see how the limitations work and the effects of these limitations on a person.

    • Thanks for that Aidan. I’d started with wanting to do a time travel story set in the real world but then hit the problem off – well if time travel exists why haven’t we just stopped all these terrible things from having happening. The explanation turned into the story.

  5. This feels more like background than story, but that’s no criticism, it’s a great idea and a firm foundation if you wanted to build upon it. Writing time travel always presents problems as to why everyone isn’t doing it, or why we haven’t noticed people from the future already, or why someone didn’t assassinate Hitler, etc. You’ve dealt with it elegantly, introducing great tension in the idea that every time they save humanity they bring it a step closer to its ultimate doom…

    • Hey John – thanks for commenting. What you’ve said is fair, this is really the of the iceberg that should be a fully fledged story – sometimes I quite the like idea of just laying hints and letting the reader’s imagination fill in the rest.

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