"State University Physicists Making Major Breakthroughs" said the headline on the newspaper. Joe crumpled it as he tossed it into the big trash basket on his cart. He had cleaned these buildings for years and they were always going on about one breakthrough or another. In all his time here, he hadn't seen them once come up with something useful. "All they ever do is make messes and leave them for old Joe to clean up", he thought as he trudged into the next office.
It was the usual rat's nest of stacked papers, cola cans and junk food wrappers and Joe picked his way through, grabbing out the garbage and leaving the important stuff. They trusted him to clean their offices because he had an uncanny knack for taking only what they wanted gone. As he cleared off the top of the desk, carefully leaving a candy bar wrapper with a schematic diagram sketched on the back, he saw it - a shiny black television remote control - and it looked like a fancy one! "It must be one of them controls that works on everything," he thought. His remote had given up the ghost two weeks ago and he had been suffering ever since. For the first time in his long career Joe took something out of the offices that he knew the professors wanted.
The rest of his shift went quickly as he whistled his way through the other offices. When he was done, he took the elevator down to the building lobby and pulled the cart out onto the polished floor. In the corner of the lobby, he remembered that they had a television just like his at home. He dug excitedly in the pocket of his coverall and pulled out the remote. He hadn't seen it that closely in the office, but now he got a good long look. It was long and thin and had a black screen about 2 inches square at the top. Below the screen was a knob labeled "Rate" and below the knob was a large "Activate" button, a smaller "Option" button and a number key pad.
He pushed the power button which he found on the side of the remote and the screen lit up with bright green numbers which changed when he pointed it around the room. He aimed it at the TV and hit the activate button. The TV looked brighter, shinier, for a moment but then was back to normal and still off. "Damn thing doesn't work," he grumbled. He thought about putting it back in the office where he had found it, but that was on the sixth floor and it was time for him to go home. He made a sour face and threw it in with the other trash.
2 HOURS LATER IN THE DUMPSTER BEHIND THE UNIVERSITY PHYSICS BUILDING
"Yes, yes, yesssss!!!" Jake exulted as he emerged from the dumpster with the remote in his hand. He clicked the power button and the screen lit up. "Cool," he said to himself and clicked it off. He had made a habit of dumpster diving behind the science buildings regularly. He had pieced together a nice little computer workstation from the various parts that got tossed out, as well as accumulating a bizarre collection of devices for which he could find no earthly purpose. They weren't alien or anything, just things so geeky that only the inventor had any idea what they were supposed to do. He shoved the remote in his backpack along with the other "finds" of the night and headed back to his apartment.
Jake lived off campus in a one room studio apartment. It was small, but at least he didn't have to have a roomate. It was a pretty typical place, free posters with beatiful, bathing-suit clad women hocking beer fought for space on the walls with radical MC Escher prints (infinite staircases and such) and portraits of Albert Einstein. He tossed his backpack on the futon, which was folded up like a couch, and bounced into the kitchenette for a can of soda. He nearly tripped over his cat, Mittens, when he rounded the corner.
"Watch it buddy," he said, and lifted the cat up onto the counter. He poured more water into the cat dish and opened up the refrigerator.
"Awww," he sighed, taking a big drink, "caffeine: it does a body good."
He plopped down on the futon and dug through his new treasures, setting aside all of the stuff that would have to be cannibalized. Once he got his hands on the remote, he tossed everything into the backpack and threw it onto the floor next to his books. "I wonder what you do?" he said, eyeing the device. He clicked it on and pointed it at his TV, nothing. He pushed the 2 button and hit activate. The TV looked shinier for a moment and then, nothing. He looked closer at the readout, it said "origin: 5y 3m 3d" as well as the current time including ticking seconds in small letters at the top. When he lifted the remote to vertical to get a better look, the readout went to all zeroes. He pointed it back at the TV and the reading returned. In larger characters it said "target: 2yr 0m 0d" then below in small letters again it said "current: 4y 11m 0d - delta: 0/10". Still pointing it at the TV, he hit Activate again. As he held the button and looked at the display, the current kept changing. When he let go, it stopped. The TV looked the same, but something had to be happening. He held down the Activate button yet again and this time turned the Rate knob. When he twisted it, the current numbers changed much quicker and when it matched the target, it stopped.
He walked closer to the TV and held out his hand toward it - it wasn't hot or anything. He waited a moment and then touched it, nothing. He looked at the control again, puzzled. Mittens jumped up on the back of the futon and began stretching by digging his claws into the fabric. He took the control and pointed it at Mittens. Now the origin: said 3y 7m 23d and the current time. He pushed at the Activate button but hit Option instead. Correcting his mistake he punched Activate. Nothing seemed to be happening so he twisted the knob. The effect was electric, Mittens' muzzle quickly turned grey and he fell limply off the back of the couch and onto the seat. Jake had instinctively pulled his finger off the button when the cat fell. Then he ran over to his pet. Mittens was now a very old cat. The readout on the screen said +10 and the current was 13y. 13 years! Mittens had been three and the control added 10 years.
Jake hit the option button and the +10 cleared away and a -0 replaced it. He pointed it at Mittens and turned the knob part way. Slowly, but steadily the grey faded from the cat's muzzle, Jake watched the animal get younger and only stopped when a small kitten lay on the cushion. Mittens jumped up and batted playfully at the end of the controller. He didn't look any worse for the wear (other than being a kitten again). Jake changed the settings on the controller again and aged the cat to his normal size.
He almost couldn't sleep he was so excited. But he had classes tomorrow so he made himself flatten the futon, turn off the light and lay down.
"Tomorrow's going to be an interesting day!" he thought.
THE NEXT DAY: NOW IT GETS INTERESTING
The clock radio blared in Jake's ear at 9:00 the next morning. He had turned it up really loud so he would have to wake up and turn it off. He reached toward the table next to his futon - no radio! Then he remembered, he had moved it to the other side of the room so he couldn't keep hitting "snooze" and miss his History class. He tried pulling the blanket over his head, but the music was too loud and annoying. He didn't care for country music and so had set his alarm on the local country station. "Sometimes I'm too clever for my own good," he thought, as he levered himself up and out of bed. A quick stagger across the room and soon the offending alarm clock was silent. He thought about going back to bed, but now he was wide awake so he might as well go to class. He stripped down leaving a trail of clothes between his futon and the bathroom, and went to take a shower.
After he dried off, brushed his teeth, shaved and got dressed, Jake grabbed a package of Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tarts from his kitchenette. He gathered up his textbooks and shoved them into his backpack. Then he saw the slim black case of the device he had played with last night. "Can't forget you," he said to it, "we're gonna have some fun today!" Then he stuffed it into a side pocket of his backpack, said bye to Mittens the cat and walked out the door.
Forty minutes later Jake was at serious risk of falling back asleep. Professor Boring, that wasn't his real name, droned on and on about America under the Articles of Confederation. Jake couldn't remember the Professor's actual name, but everyone knew who Professor Boring had to be, so it didn't really matter. As a matter of fact, the moniker was starting to spread around the campus. A few people had even repeated it back to Jake, not realizing he was the one who made it up.
Jake had the prize seat, the one nearest the door. He was too smart to sit in the back, profs always watched the back row. He could do just about anything and it would go completely unnoticed as long as he sat on the front row. "What an old fart," he thought, yawning, "does he fall asleep if he talks to himself?" Then he remembered the device he had found. He carefully reached down and retrieved it from the backpack which lay at his feet. He eased it up onto his desk and looked at it closely. He turned on the whatchamacallit. "What should I call this thing?" he thought, "The rejuvenator? The clock machine?" He looked at the readout,"How about The Timer? Yeah, that sounds cool. Almost like a super hero."
He looked around the classroom. Who should taste the power of The Timer first? He looked over at Becky Turnbull, further down the front row, directly in front of the Professor's desk. She was majoring in Elementary Education and dressed the same as her future students. She had a big bow in her dark brunette hair and a denim jumper dress over a white button-front blouse. She also wore shoes that looked more than a little like Mary Janes. The only way you could tell she was college age was by looking at her chest - she was quite busty. Jake had thought about striking up an acquaintance with her very early on in the semester, but the way she sucked up to the professor every class period left him convinced that she had to be a complete dipshit.
He imagined her shock when shrinking to the same age as the kids she wanted to teach, maybe six or seven years old, with the other students staring at her in amazement. "Nah," he thought,"it would be too easy for someone to figure out it was me. At the very least, the authorities would check out everyone in the room and I don't think I could BS my way through." But he noted the idea for the future. He looked at her with a sour expression as she nodded in wide-eyed agreement with Professor Boring.
"This is Hell!" he thought,"I can't wait to get out of here and try this thing out!" He tapped his foot faster and faster and thought about walking out. But he had missed too many classes and didn't want to attract negative attention from the Professor. He looked out and imagined the freedom beckoning to him through the open door. Then he looked farther out, into the classroom across the hall. It was a Compostion and Rhetoric class taught by a woman named Professor Downing. He had taken the class from her several semesters ago and while he had gotten a 'B', the class had been a complete drag. She was in her late forties and was completely burned out.
She had long ago given up actually getting any input from her students and now just told them what the readings in the textbook "meant". Jake had not agreed with some of her assessments and a little research in the library had confirmed that some serious scholarly writers would have had problems with the crap she was peddling. At one point, he had brought in an essay from the author of a piece she had "interpreted" for the class and shown her where the author specifically stated what the work meant. It was completely the opposite of what the class had been taught. "Writers write and Professors interpret," she had said, "I am familiar with this author and I know for a fact that he only has a Bachelor's degree. I don't think he is qualified to evaluate the work." She had been of the opinion that that argument was sufficient, and Jake had wisely given up before it hurt his grade.
Jake pointed the Timer at her and read the display: 48y 7m 13d. "Almost 49 years old," he thought,"for now." He punched in a target age and moved his hands over the Timer so he could activate it and turn the rate knob unobtrusively while keeping it aimed at her. He wanted to control the rate of her change directly. Before he pushed the button, though, he took a good look at her. Professor Downing was tall for a woman (about 5'9" Jake guessed), with hawk-like features and her grey-flecked, brown hair pulled back into a severe bun. She was getting that aging spinster look, bird legs and long fingers, but he had heard that she had been pretty when she was younger. She was wearing a blue skirt that came to mid-calf and a white, school-marm blouse with long sleeves and a gold brooch at the neck
"If she wore some makeup, it would probably help," he thought, "and got some new clothes."
She was lecturing to her class, standing in front of the chalkboard. Jake couldn't make out what she was saying, but she was doing her usual lecture routine - speak to the class, turn and write it on the board, turn back to the class and repeat. When she finished speaking and turned to the board, Jake hit Activate. A brightness surrounded her for a moment and she shivered visibly. The readout was slowly counting down as he held the button and when it hit forty years old, he let off.
She didn't look all that different. Her hair was less grey and maybe she didn't look so skinny. She seemed to be more authoritative though. Jake could hear her voice rise louder to punctuate her points. She had spoken in a near monotone before. Jake waited and when she turned to the board again, he hit the button again. He turned the Rate knob and the counter quickly ticked back to 30 and he let off. Now you could see a difference. Her hair shone and the color was deeper and richer. The skirt was tight across her seat and the waist looked a little loose. As she spoke to the class, she subtly tugged at her clothing trying to make it fit right again. She rubbed her hand softly and it looked to Jake like she realized that something was going on. She raised her hand in front of her face and stared at it, the veins and wrinkles that had covered it before were gone. Then she realized where she was and jerked her hand down. She was obviously flustered. Maybe more than that, though Jake. Now her hand was slowly rubbing up and down on one hip.
It was getting near the end of class and she turned to the board and gave her classic lecture finish. She would tap the board as she repeated each of her main lecture points. At each tap, Jake goosed the Timer and each time, she jerked with an almost sexual motion. Now she was 27, according to the readout. Her hand nervously stroked her cheek and she walked quickly to her desk and sat down. Her students, obviously more concerned with their grades or not noticing her strange metamorphasis clustered at the front and sides of her desk. For a few minutes Jake didn't have a clear shot at her. The readout jumped from 27 to 19 to 22 as people got in the way. Soon it was down to a couple of students and Professor Downing, although the fresh young brunette didn't look so professorial anymore. One student was a tall handsome man, Jake thought he was a football player (the readout said he was nearly 23) and the other was a sophomore named Judy Wilkes. Professor Downing was talking to the big guy first and looking up into his face with a slightly flushed expression. "If I didn't know better,"Jake thought,"I'd swear she was hitting on him!" She touched her hair and looked attentively at him as he spoke. He obviously asked a stupid question, because you could see her pause a moment and her expression as she began to answer was almost bored.
She was 27 and he was 23, and that seemed like too big an age difference to Jake. He pushed the activate button and turned the rate knob way up. Five years quickly fell off of her. She looked up at the football player, who was now actually a year older than her, with the expression of a girl with a crush. She also swayed under the impact of the sudden loss of years and had to steady herself by putting her hand against his sturdy chest. Then she seemed to collect herself again and snatched her hand away. She looked confused and the football player backed away and walked out of the classroom door, looking back anxiously. She shook her head and turned to Judy. Jake was astonished by the picture before his eyes, old Professor Downing, barely older than her student. During the regression, her hair had started coming loose from the bun and now it hung thick and glossy, barely restrained by the pin that had held the bun together. Judy looked nervous and said something to the Professor.
Jake thought he had better finish things up before the class ended and the hallway between them filled with people. He turned the knob to about half power and hit the activate button. Professor Downing was replying to Judy's question and apparently didn't notice the youthening effect begin again. The counter showed the progress - starting at 22 and moving back to 21, 20, 19, and 18. Judy gaped as her Professor's appearance changed into that of a coed. Professor Downing's hands flew to her face again and the pin holding her hair fell to the ground. Her hair spilled down her shoulders and halfway down her back. Her face was soft and pretty and her eyes looked larger. Her nose wasn't hawk-like at all anymore. The blouse barely contained her breasts which were firmer and higher than before. The skirt fit correctly across her hips again, but the waist was even looser than before. Professor Downing grabbed her purse off her desk and rooted in it and came out with a mirror, dropping the purse to the floor. She held it in both hands and stared amazed at the face reflected back. Jake chose that moment to shave a few more years off and her clothes began to loosen all over. Judy backed away from the sixteen year old Professor.
Jake popped the button again and another year fell away - 15. She took a step toward the student who was now taller and older than she was. Another year dropped - 14. Her skirt was slipping and the sleeves of her blouse were gathering at her wrists. She grabbed at Judy and Jake held the button down once more. Judy's chin rose above her head, she was staring up at her student and crying out in a girl's voice. She quickly looked down at the ruin of her clothing. The neck of her blouse hung wide around her slender neck. Her hands were small and young looking and the cuffs of her blouse went halfway down her palms. Her chest didn't stick into her peripheral vision like before and when she looked down she saw that her breasts barely pushed out the voluminous fabric covering them. Her hair was shorter and less full than before.
Jake was incredibly turned on by the scene of the twelve year old Professor being consoled by a student who looked old enough to be her big sister. Then his class was dismissed and Jake crammed his stuff into his backpack and bolted for the door. He intentionally swung wide in the hallway so his path carried him close to the classroom door across the hall. The twelve year old girl was sitting in the large desk chair dangling her legs and sniffling. A group of her students were milling about and gawking at the spectacle. Judy was crouched down next to her saying "It'll be OK, the EMT's are on their way and they can find out what happened to you. Do you want me to go with you?"
"Would you?" sniffed the Professor in a childish voice and a smile broke through her tears. Judy wiped the girl's small upturned nose with a tissue and put her arm around the narrow shoulders.
Jake had to go then, he didn't want to attract any unnecessary attention. He lost himself in the swirl of the crowd walking down the hall.
To Be Continued ...