Five paused and thought about how to answer Tufty’s question while also still trying to work out why he was here. It could be that Tufty’s 2017 was a result of the success of her own mission. But whether he was an intrinsic part of that success or about to become a hindrance, she couldn’t say.
She watched him carefully. He seemed to have been around the block a few times and wasn’t stupid. He also appeared to know the layout of this place, so perhaps he could help her? Then again, his very presence could mean an uncertain future for them all.
It was also entirely possible that he worked for the students and was the enemy. If that was the case, she would have to rip him in the jugular and take him out.
Always at the ready, she covertly uncovered her magnificent claws and decided to take the risk.
‘Those students,’ she said, ‘are evil. They may appear foolish, but they are academically sharp and, less than a month from now, they realise what they have discovered – the ability to create a tear in the space-time continuum. They also go on to learn how to manipulate it so they can travel through time themselves.
‘At first, they just go backwards and forwards a bit, doing some targeted gambling and making a lot of money. But, by going to the future they also come to understand the power of the internet – particularly Facebook. In 2003, they travel to the U.S.A, meet with Mark Zuckerberg and buy themselves a controlling interest in it. They then go on to use their influence in the creation of propaganda to spread the idea that the world needs coal seam gas, ultimately becoming so rich they can easily impact not just national, but international politics.
‘All the while they are aware that the harvesting of coal seam gas poisons the world’s aquifers and so, on the side, they develop a chemical antidote. But they don’t put it to humanitarian use. Instead, they continue to promote the contamination of the world’s fresh water supply while only providing clean water for themselves and a few select cronies.
‘No clean water not only means global thirst, but no irrigation for crops, leading to global hunger and disease. By the year 2020, the entire planet is a war zone with the supply of energy, water and food utterly controlled by a few protected elite.’
‘But,’ Tufty was gobsmacked, ‘it’s not like that in 2017!’
‘In my 2017 it was,’ Five corrected him. ‘I’m from 2021 and part of an organisation called PURR – Populace Underground Research and Resistance. The students have never revealed their time-travel technology to anyone, but we now have enough information to know that this, right here in 1986, was the starting point for their version of world events. We have also now developed time-travel technology of our own based on the same metallic alloy; but, unfortunately, we are only at the stage where we can send the body weight of a cat. I am that cat and I have been sent as a secret agent to stop these students and save the world.’
Tufty stared at her. This was crazy! Still, he had never met a secret agent before and he couldn’t help but be impressed. Five, meanwhile, was convinced enough of his innocence to retract her claws away.
‘Now,’ Five said, looking through the gap in the wardrobe door and out into the bedroom, ‘the loops of time are very complicated. Although it is encouraging that you have clean water and all seems well in 2017, I have no way of knowing if that is because of this mission, or if it will be a success. If I were you, I would get back in that litter tray and go back to where you came from. That is, if you can. Your very presence here could have already altered the timeline so much that you can’t go back. At least not to the 2017 you know. But if you go now, before you have any further influence on events, you have got the best chance.’
Tufty understood. If he went now, all might be well in his world, and he could be eating giblets and watching TV curled up with Francine by night’s end. But if he didn’t go now he might never see Francine or the other tenants and kids that he loved around the apartment block ever again. He might not even survive.
This was the toughest decision yet.
Go to next chapter…