Futurism logo

The Cooper Expedition

A search for answers

By Simon CurtisPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 15 min read
Runner-Up in Time Traveler Challenge
The Cooper Expedition
Photo by Ebun Oluwole on Unsplash

Everyone knows where they were when British President Cooper was assassinated. 12.42pm May 29th 2069 walking through Bristol during his campaign for re-election. It was the trigger for the country’s fall into authoritarianism and the catalyst for a complete shift in the politics of Western Europe. For many it was the beginning of the end of democracy and the starting point of every major modern history book. If there was a single event that defined the 22nd Century it was this.

By 2124 the series of wars called the North Atlantic War, though many regarded them as the 3rd World War, were a very bad memory and Britain was in the process of rebuilding itself and its international reputation. The navel-gazing and introspection generated more history books than the first two world wars put together. Dr David Lambeth was one of the many who made their name writing about the period between 2069 and 2113 and had risen to some great prominence in the field. His most popular book about the Battle of the Canaries was considered the seminal work on the first, and last, disastrous entirely automated battle. He was an expert, but not just because he had read about it, he had lived it. He had grown up in the 2070s and 80s, was a young man during the slide towards conflict in the 2090s and spent his middle age throughout the 15 year long war. Now in his later years he spent every day talking about the blackest period in British history at Cambridge University, he simply could not escape it.

As with all wars innovation had been one of the few benefits and the invention of time travel had been discovered as the war was fizzling out. Unusually this technology was very quickly regulated by a set of universally adopted laws and kept out of the hands of private enterprise. It was licensed to ten universities and each had to plan their ventures meticulously with the other nine in order to retain balance and control.

There were very few trips every year and they had to be taken to resolve a pressing historical question. To date some of the most significant results were the photographic evidence of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the definitive unmasking of Jack the Ripper and a record of the final months of life in Roanoke. However the big expedition which all of the Universities wanted to go on was to prove the existence and miracles of Jesus Christ. This was fraught with ethical issues and in 2124 there still hadn’t been a breakthrough on it. The other truly controversial area was high profile assassinations. The murder of JFK was high on the priority list but there were still reservations amongst many in the US security establishment and as a result despite the expedition being meticulously planned in a multi university collaboration the plans were still on hold.

As a result of the political wrangling over JFK, Dr Lambeth found himself thrown to the forefront of time travel expedition. As the preeminent figure in the study of the assassination of President Cooper he was team leader of a planned investigation into the truth surrounding the disputed assassins in this case. It was not as controversial and it was commonly felt that if a successful expedition was managed it would set a strong precedent for the bigger one across the Atlantic.

Dr Lambeth had never been a very adventurous man, he had spent all of his adult life within the safety of his university college. He had never married and his trips overseas had always been in connection with a conference or a book launch. The idea of a time travel expedition had not crossed his mind until he was approached by one of his former students to liaise with his TTE team. After a few months of consulting, the draw became irresistible and when the suggestion of him joining the team on a permanent basis became a firm offer he was quick to join.

The aftermath of the assassination defined the world the academic had grown up in and undoubtedly sparked the interest that led to his studies, but his connection to the assassination was far more personal. He had been brought up with the story of his parents’ first meeting as something of a legend. They had both been students at university in Bristol and had found themselves queuing in a cafe the morning of the 29th of May. Dr Lambeth’s mother, a promising chemist found herself at the counter without the means to pay, his father, a less promising accounting student was behind and paid for her drink. Soon after the chaos of the assassination led to the customers taking refuge in the cafe and the pair exchanged details. For Dr Lambeth the 29th of May 2069 was the start of his own story which wove itself neatly into that of the great thread of the next 65 years of world history.

Britain had fallen into chaos as the extreme right and left wing groups who both claimed responsibility for the assassination battled for supremacy. Eventually factions of both sides who had shared nationalistic views joined and created an identity that drove David Billier to the presidency and an unassailed authoritarian premiership of three decades. Dr Lambeth had received the illiberal education that had been the only thing on offer to the child of a single parent on a limited income. He had, however, managed to retain a very balanced understanding thanks to his devoted and highly intelligent mother. They struggled together after his father, who left before his first birthday, disappeared and his mother had worked as many low level service jobs as she could to keep them housed and fed. She had left behind a potentially glittering career in science to ensure she kept her son out of the government “Poverty Recovery System” which was a latter day workhouse that would have seen them permanently separated. His own naive childhood happiness contrasted with the depression his mother hid brought on by her own miserably hard existence of toil and missed opportunities. She never remarried and died before she could see her son complete his undergraduate degree.

The Cooper Expedition had been a relatively straightforward one to plan. The assassination had been clumsy and amateurish in its exposition but in this it made it very difficult to identify who had carried it out. As the President made his way down Bristol High Street six assassins wearing masks of his face threw grenades from different positions. The lack of quality CCTV, and the fact that the security services were expecting something far more sophisticated, or the use of a gun, meant that no suspects were ever found. Immediately both sides claimed responsibility and the myths were born.

There have been much modelling of the scene over the years and it was very clear where each of the individuals stood. Without their true identity ever being discovered they were all given awful tabloid nicknames which stuck. The most famous of those was ‘Big Boy 23’ so-called as his tracksuit had that written down the sides. There were others, such as the ‘Green Giant’ a very tall individual in green, ‘Shadow Man’, all in black and ‘Little Boy 2.3’, no distinguishing features other than having been seen next to Big Boy 23 and was significantly smaller than him. The final two wore dirty overalls and were named ‘Bill and Ben’.

Over the years, using the modelling, the paths of the assassins has been tracked, which meant that it would be easy for the team to position themselves at some point on the route in order to follow them in and then gain enough evidence to define the identities of enough of the suspects to pinpoint exactly which group was responsible. The planning was meticulous and each member of the team was given a second by second guide as to where they must stand, what information they must get, where they must be for the next data point and how they were going to find every bit of information that they needed. The team would be able to follow beyond the point that the CCTV and other footage had been able and eventually manage to collect the vital evidence to identify each and everyone of the group that killed the president. Dr Lambeth was initially disinclined to take part in the actual expedition and was content to manage and plan. However as it became increasingly clear that this was to be a particularly significant expedition with regards the wider pursuit of the international teams the political pressure became to great to ignore. As a result he was expected to go through the rigorous qualification process.

As part of the stringent regulations for time travel, any individual who was to be allowed on expedition had to be taken through a three-step process. The first was to meet certain criteria within the context of being an expert in the field, which Lambeth undoubtedly was. The second was a personality profile that demonstrated suitability. The testing for this lasted months and required the candidate to be under constant observation, even while sleeping. The third and final part of the qualification was the background check and analysis of family life. There was an understanding that as there were huge risks involved in both getting to the past and returning to the present day expeditions were seen as potential suicide missions for anyone taking part. This had to be understood and those with significant family responsibilities were unlikely to pass the assessment.

Dr Lambeth was probably one of the easiest candidates for the ITTE board to pass, and so that not only was he the team leader he was also the expedition leader too. He had chosen not to take the most popular role, which was to follow the infamous Big Boi 23, but to follow the Shadow Man. This as he explained to the ITTE board was mainly because he had the least information to work with, and if they were to be any failure on the expedition, it was likely to be whoever took on this target.

In the months before the expedition the team spent countless hours treading the streets of Bristol, following the path that they would be taking on the day in question. The city council had allowed the team to add buildings in the form of wooden structures in places that those buildings no longer existed, in one case a street has been constructed through the courtyard of a number of hotels and businesses. This had caused enormous disruption to the owners, but ultimately the team got what they needed.

Dr Lambeth walked his route, five or six times a day timing everything to the second. There were run-throughs every day in which an actor would play the assassin, and it was the job of the tracker to get the required information. There was rarely a failure and after completing the routes in excess of 1000 times the team were absolutely certain that even given the uncertainty of a real post-assassination experience, they would be able to get the information without interfering with the events.

Being back in Bristol had been a sobering experience for Dr Lambeth, as he had not really returned for any great length of time during the past four decades. His old home still stood in the outer suburbs of the city centre. It was no longer an area lived in by the very poorest and the small terraced house which had been built in the early 2000s was now part of a larger detached house created out of three of the smaller homes. He had made an effort to visit briefly during his stay to reminisce, but found the memories for more painful than he thought he would have done. He had come to realise in his older age that his mother who had sacrificed so much for him had lived a miserable and somewhat disappointing life before dying far too early. They had had a wonderful relationship, and she had been incredibly proud of him. He, for his part had been a devoted son. However, when he contemplated his own life, and what he had achieved, he pondered on how his mother had felt as she looked back on her life in the last few weeks. He had never wanted to marry, or have a family and had committed his life to this, but he knew that his mother had regretted not completing the PhD she had wished to gain, and knew how lonely she got, despite having him. In his heart, he knew, she always wanted to remarry and have more children, but circumstances had not allowed it. Bristol had made him realise just how wonderful his mother was, how proud he was of her, and how much he owed her. This expedition in his mind was in her honour, and would be his finest hour.

The day before the expedition took place. The team went for their final meal as they had to fast before going through the time travel experience. They chose a restaurant located for all of their culinary desires, coincidently. It was this restaurant that had once been a café, and its choice was not lost on Dr Lambeth. As they walked into the building. He smiled to himself, and tried to imagine the moment his parents met.

He didn’t really remember his father and his face was only familiar from the two pictures he had of him. He was camera shy and his mother had not really wished to have so many painful reminders in the house. In fact all she had kept was the solitary £20 note he enclosed with the letter he had left on the kitchen table on the day he walked out. Even in her worst moments she refused to use it and kept it folded in her purse to her dying day. Despite everything Lambeth liked to think of this as one of the most happy moments in both of their lives. Amidst the terrible events unfolding outside and held onto their meeting as such.

He enjoyed an evening of humour and comradeship amongst his team. They drank, laughed and ate heartily before returning to their barracks and trying to get through a nervous night’s sleep.

In order to travel through time, the team were required to wear a specifically designed suit that would protect them against the forces acting on them. They were each given a rucksack made of the same material in which the contemporary clothes were placed. It was their job once they arrived to change, quickly, place the suit in the backpack backpack on their back. They were not allowed to take anything with them, however, in order to record everything that they were doing they were all given glasses that contained extreme high-definition cameras. They were also fitted with body cameras on the front and back which were concealed within the contemporary clothes. They had watches which not only showed the timings for their movements, but also the location of the team. They also had concealed communications devices which allow them to talk to each without anyone realising that was what they were doing. The final part of the kit which is worn on their right arm was the return mechanism. This has been the hardest part of the inventing process and was the most prone to failure. It was connected to the metal seat they would sit on in the time chamber. When they travelled through time the chamber would stay in the present, but the seat would be transported to the past. It was this that was connected through time and can only be reused when the team member return to the chair and pressed the return button on the mechanism.

The tests had been done and the team, were ready to enter the chamber. It was a large metal cylinder with the six seats placed around the walls. Each member of the team took a seat and placed the bag on their knees. A doctor came in and administered an injection into each of them finishing with Dr Lambeth. They each twitched for a moment as the chemicals conflicted in their systems. However, this was short lived and as soon as the convulsions finished, they felt a euphoric relaxation. The doctor left, and a large heavy metal door was closed behind them. The team were not fully conscious as the countdown began. Outside the cylinder, the noise was extreme as the time engines began to kick in. Gradually the metal cylinder began to glow, a bright white to the point that it seemed unbearable for anyone outside to cope with then with a bizarre and abrupt silence everything went back to normal.

The team woke in an empty warehouse two miles away from the centre of Bristol it had been specifically chosen as the landing site as it was proven to be completely empty throughout the period that was required. Groggily they removed the tight-fitting masks and began the process of changing from their travel suits into the clothes they had brought in their backpacks. Once ready they checked the equipment was functioning and they dispersed towards their origin point.

Dr Lambeth made his way down the familiar roads. It felt unreal to be walking the streets of his childhood, before he was born. He knew the city well both from his own experience and his extensive training. He passed the supermarket where he got his first part time job, the shop he and his mother went to for his school uniform and finally the college he completed his Upper Level exams which saw him qualify for his place at University. He settled in his origin spot and checked his watch. There were fifteen minutes to spare, he watched the little red dots of his team all making their way to their places and positioned himself down a side street as had been planned.

As he stood looking he kept his eyes on the building opposite. It was a cafe. It was the cafe. He watched the door knowing that in a moment his mother would walk into it, the excitement he felt from this was great. Just to see her for the most fleeting moment was such a joy. Then, like a ghost she appeared from the crowded street and headed towards the door, she looked young, vibrant and above all happy. Dr Lambeth felt happier than he had for many years, and almost missed the moment his father followed her in. He was smaller than he remembered, but very handsome and immaculately dressed. Dr Lambeth could see why he made such an immediate impression with his mother. He stood looking at the outside of the café, there were still 10 minutes left before he would have to do anything but in less than five the moment we define his entire existence would take place. He could go into the café and watch it and still be in position in time for the operation. The temptation was great. He looked at his watch again and then back at the café. He would never get the chance ever again he took a deep breath and crossed the road.

The café was busy, and there was a queue of six people, his mother was two places from the front with his father right behind her. Glancing between his parents and his watch, Dr Lambeth positioned himself away from the situation in order to not be close enough to anyone he could interact with. Momentarily his mother turned and flicked her hair. In an instant he saw the innocence and joy in her eyes and he was filled with sadness and regret. While this was the moment that led to his existence, it was also the moment his mother’s life began its downward path to ultimate early death. He had lived a fulfilled if not exciting life thanks to his mother’s dedication and care and he wished that in some way he could have repaid her in life. He took a look at his watch again. Everything was on track and he had eight minutes. His mother was now next in the queue. It was nearly time. He placed his hand in his pocket, took a deep breath and strode towards his mother. When he reached, he tapped her on the shoulder, smiled and held his hand out towards her.

“I think you dropped this.” He said.

She looked down at his hand to see a folded £20 note.

“Oh I’m not sure that’s mine,” she replied.

He looked at it again. “No it’s definitely yours please take it”.

She smiled and took it thanking him before putting it in her coat pocket and moving to the counter to order coffee. As she realised that she had left her purse at home. She reached into a pocket to take out the £20 note. She hesitated, and looked round to see where the man who had given it to her had gone but he was nowhere to be seen. Not in the café not in the street, not in existence. Gone.

science fiction

About the Creator

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.