Charlie's the kind of boy that no one notices. Hell, his own mother can't remember his name. So when a mysterious clockwork man tries to kill him in modern day Philadelphia, and they tumble through a hole into 1725 London, Charlie realizes even the laws of time don't take him seriously. Still, this isn't all bad. Who needs school when you can learn about history first hand, like from Ben Franklin himself. And there's this girl... Yvaine... another time traveler. All good. Except for the rules: boys only travel into the past and girls only into the future. And the baggage: Yvaine's got a baby boy and more than her share of ex-boyfriends. Still, even if they screw up history - like accidentally let the founding father be killed - they can just time travel and fix it, right? But the future they return to is nothing like Charlie remembers. To set things right, he and his scrappy new girlfriend will have to race across the centuries, battling murderous machines from the future, jealous lovers, reluctant parents, and time itself.
Inside, Independence Hall is lit by flickering yellow lamps. It’s still a museum, but there the resemblance to the one I remember ends.
I stop at a painting of George Washington offering a sword to a fattish older man in red. Yvaine reads the little plaque next to it with the diction of a fourth grader.
“A victorious Lord Cornwallis accepts the surrender of General Washington at Yorktown, 1781.”
“It was the other way around,” I say. My sinking feeling hits rock bottom.
“With this crushing defeat the traiti…traitorous colonial rebellion begun in this room came to an end. His majesty King George III later elevated Lord Cornwallis as the first Duke of Virginia in gratitude for his services.”
The next painting shows fifteen or so men hanging from the gallows.
“The signatories of the so-called Declaration of Independence,” I read, “are executed here in Philadelphia after being convicted of treason. King George graciously commuted their sentences from drawing and quartering to hanging. From left to right: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Hancock…”
No Ben Franklin, of course. In this world, he didn’t live to sign — or rather, be hung. It makes me sick to my stomach. Call me a sappy patriot, but I was proud to be born in the country those guys made, and hell, I liked Ben before I met him. Knowing I screwed the whole thing up really bites the big one.
“This is all so wrong,” I say. “We won this war. America is a free country. A democracy with no king.”
“That not be what it say here.”
She points at a big glossy photo of a middle-aged man in an ornate suit holding a crown and scepter. His hair and jacket are dyed red, white, and blue in the pattern of the British flag!
“His majesty Charles III,” Yvaine reads, “King of Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland, America, India, China, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ceylon, head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.”
I recognize Prince Charles from the tabloids. I guess he got to be king after all.
Back to the plaque. “The exhibits in this chamber commemorate the divine right of the Kings of Great Britain, and illustrate the folly of radical and democratic socialism. By the wisdom of the people and the grace of God.”
Thank God there’s no more to read. I press my thumb and forefinger against my eyelids. “Even in the movies, no one screws up this bad,” I mutter.
“Dinna think that way.” Yvaine draws my hand away from my eyes and kisses the tips of my fingers. “Your da will know how t’fix it.”
I don’t know if she believes that or if she just wants to.
Andy Gavin is an unstoppable storyteller who studied for his Ph.D. at M.I.T. and founded video game developer Naughty Dog, Inc. at the age of fifteen, serving as co-president for two decades. There he created, produced, and directed over a dozen video games, including the award winning and best selling Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter franchises, selling over 40 million units worldwide. He sleeps little, reads novels and histories, watches media obsessively, travels, and of course, writes.
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