Sometimes it just seems like life has it in for you.
It was a normal Tuesday, and mercifully quiet. For once there were no alarms, no alien warlords. No indication that our Captain was about to send another “lucky” group off on a suicide mission.
I was in the canteen, tucking into a sandwich when Reg walked in. Followed immediately by Reg.
I slapped my hand against my forehead as the two identical men walked my way, turning a few heads as they went.
“Oh for fu- No!” I moaned when they were in earshot.
Reg 1 sat down. “How do you know what we’re going to say?”
Reg 2 sat down. “Yeah. We haven’t said anything yet.”
“Because it’s obviously a time paradox or something. I’m not messing with that. I’m going to eat this sandwich. This delicious coronation chicken sandwich that I’ve been looking forward to all morning.” I glared at them, hoping I could ram home the fact I wanted to be left alone. “You’re on your own. Both of you.”
“How do you know it’s a time paradox?” asked Reg 1 after they shot each other a silent, quizzical glance.
“Yeah,” Reg 2 chimed in, unhelpfully.
“How else would… this…” I waved a hand in their vicinity, “Have happened?”
“Cloning?” They both said together.
They both started giggling.
I tried to shoot a despairing look at anyone on another table. Everyone was making a point of not looking our way. “Don’t start that.”
They stopped laughing. It seemed maybe I growled the threat with a little too much menace. I shuffled in my seat, wary that Reg really was my only friend on this ship – even if the thought of two of him terrified me.
I took a deep breath. “Look… Do you realise how long it’s taken us to sort the coronation chicken fabrication out? The system’s been glitched for months. It’s been a pain. It’s my favourite sandwich filling, alright? Now, I don’t have much that’s going to get me through this horrible voyage, but this is one of those things. And now we’ve had a chance to get it working, I just want to enjoy it. Got it? I’ve-”
“- Been looking forward to it all morning. Yeah, you said,” said Reg 2 with a slightly petulant tone. Reg 1 put a hushing hand on Reg 2’s elbow and shook his head.
I looked at Reg 2. “So you must be the Reg from the future, then.”
He nodded. “And why are you telling us about your friggin’ sandwich?”
“You tell me. You’ve sat through this conversation already as Reg from the present, haven’t you?”
They looked at each other. Reg 1 was considerably more awestruck by this thought.
Reg 2 glared at me. “I knew you were going to say that.”
“Uh-huh,” I murmured dismissively as I tore the flimsy plastic wrapper away and went to take a bite of my sandwich. I’d given up waiting.
Reg 2 leaned in. “You realise that sandwich will taste horrible don’t you, smartarse?”
The bastard was right. It was like trying to eat creamy newspaper that had been sat in the sun for days. I tried not to let my disappointment show as Reg 2 grinned.
I swallowed. “I don’t suppose you remember how we end up fixing it?”
My disappointment gave way to anger as he shook his head with no small amount of triumph.
I sighed. “Right. Seeing as you two are determined to ruin my day, why don’t you tell me what’s going on?”
Reg 1 cleared his throat. “Well, you know you and Clive told me to go and talk to the Captain about… that thing that happened.”
“Well, I went. But on my way I ran into…” He looked at Reg 2. “Me. He warned me not to go and talk to him.”
There was a conspicuous silence where there should have been more explanation.
“And?” I prompted.
“Oh, that was it.”
“But you went to talk to him days ago. Where the hell have you been?”
Reg 1 waved his hands around vaguely. “Oh. Just here. On the ship. Seemed like a good chance to find myself a bit, you know… Do some soul searching.”
Someone on another table unsuccessfully tried to stifle a laugh.
I sighed. “Right… so future Reg didn’t come with a stark warning of a bleak distance future, then?”
Reg 2 shook his head.
“Robots don’t slaughter humanity?”
“The conversation doesn’t send the Captain off the rails and he tries to fly the ship into a black hole?”
I sighed. “Ugh… Go on then, future Reg… I’ll bite. Why are you here?”
“Well…” He glanced around and leaned in. “It just gets really awkward, you know? Between me and the Captain. If I have that chat.”
Again, silence where there should have been more explanation.
When it became clear that was it, I nodded. “Awkward.” He was winding me up a treat.
“You came back from the future to warn us that things are a bit awkward.”
I looked at Reg 1. “Is this guy – are you – serious?”
He nodded. “The future sounds pretty awkward.”
I stared at the two of them, aghast, and tried desperately to resist the urge to batter one or the other – or both – of them to bits using the nearest object. Seeing as it was the small plastic tray my sandwich was on, I decided against it.
I took a deep breath. “I should warn you both now that if it turns out future Reg doesn’t even need our help getting back to the future – and isn’t even here with any apocalyptic news or a grim prophecy – I’m going to scream.”
Reg 2 looked sheepish.
It turns out that, in space, everyone can hear you scream. Especially if it’s in the canteen at lunchtime and you’re trying to kill your annoying friend’s future self with a flimsy plastic tray.