"This is not what I was expecting," I said to myself. I do not mean that in some figurative way. I wasn't talking to no one in particular and calling it talking to myself. I mean I was literally standing three feet from another me. Looked just like me anyway, right down to the small scar on my eyebrow I got when I was seven. He (I?) was even wearing a blue shirt that I recognized as one that should currently be sitting in my closet.
"Yeah, I said that too," the other me said, which only served to baffle me further. "Look I don't have much time, so we need to get down to business. For starters, lets shut down that portal before another one of us steps through. This bullshit is complicated enough already."
I agreed with myself and flipped a few switches until the glowing blue portal behind my other self winked out of existence. My time portal, my life's work had yielded a very extraordinary result, but I was at a loss to explain it. I wasn't planning to give it a full test for a few more days, but I had it partially activated for some diagnostics. I had been surprised when it opened the gate of its own accord, and the other me had stepped out. In theory, it could work right now, but I wanted to quadruple check things before I tried it out.
As if reading my mind my other self said "I know this is baffling for you, but we are both pretty smart. You will figure it out very soon. In fact, I know that you are piecing it together right now"
"Because you are me from the future?" I said.
"Yep. And since we have seen all those old movies, don't get too worried. I am not from some terrible future where robots have taken over, or you have created some rip in time and space. I am from about six months from now, and so far, it's been a time rip and robot free year. Until about five minutes ago, the worst thing that has happened between now an then is stepping in something unpleasant during your morning jog yesterday."
"Until five minutes ago though, " I said, realizing that next Tuesday was the day I had scheduled for the first big test.
"Yeah. That's why I am here. The good news is that it works. Kind of."
"Kind of? And the bad news?"
"No matter how far in the past you try to go, you can only go as far as the machine is functional. The functioning portal seems to act like a magnet, that somehow picks you up in the time stream and spits you out, sometime between now and the next few weeks. If you think today is bad, wait until Tuesday when you power the thing up fully. I think we popped up about eight different times throughout the day. "
The other me had by now casually strolled over to my desk and sat down as if he owned it. Which, I guess, he sort of did. Still, I thought that it was rather rude of him to steal my chair even it really belonged to both of us.
"Which brings us to the purpose of my visit. We need to fix this flaw if the machine is ever to be fully functional. And we can't just repair it in the future, we have to repair it now. Before the thing's first full power activation. This time I was able to get through by homing in on a low power instance and even that will forever be a speedbump in time. But we can get around that. Next Tuesday, though. Either we fix it, or you don't power it up at all. Otherwise, that will be an insurmountable wall in time and Tuesday will become the day that every single would be time-traveler will start to show up. No idea what that will do to the future, but I don't think that's a desirable outcome. But every time traveler who ever will be showing up in the span of a few days? That can't possibly be a good thing for the time/space continuum. "
"Okay, fine," I said "So I postpone Tuesday's test. Demolish the portal. Burn my notes and never speak of it again."
"Congratulations. Now you..I...we have just created a paradox. Don't think that's a good idea either. Nah. We need to fix it. Or more accurately, you need to fix it. I need to go back. But here are my notes." he said tossing a manilla envelope full of papers at me. "Good luck."
I reactivated the portal so my doppelganger could go home. As soon as I did, yet another me looking very haggard and tired stepped through, and the me to whom I had just been speaking made a shooing motion at him and said: "It's handled, get some sleep." Tired and haggard me stepped back through, followed by blue shirt me. I shut the machine down lest any more versions of me decided to pay a visit. I already had enough weirdness for one day.
I pored over my notes from the future then went to bed. I woke up full of hope and enthusiasm that the previous day's events were just a dream, but as soon as I laid my eyes on the future notes, I realized that it had actually happened.
The hard part was going to be that I couldn't turn the machine on until I had fixed the problem. Because if I did, it would create another obstacle in time and do nothing except change the date that future time travelers wouldn't be able to go past.
I spent the next few days poring over the notes, running computer simulations and tweaking the portal. It was mainly a matter of getting the same effect with less power, so it didn't create such a massive ripple in spacetime. It was a long technical process, and unless you are versed in temporal mechanics, it wouldn't make a lot of sense to you if I explained it. Suffice it to say, it worked.
Next Tuesday came. A drone appeared in our lab three hours before the test, which we expected because that was how we knew it would work. Thus the full test run, three hours later, was almost anticlimactic when we sent the drone through. And most importantly, I was the only me in the room. There was no sudden influx of time travelers. Huzzah, my fix worked. Now on to animal and human trials.
Six months later, I volunteered to be the first human through the portal. I was wearing my lucky blue shirt and feeling confident. As I stepped through, I felt a weird tug, and I stepped out into the lab six months prior, which was NOT my target.
I was standing next to my portal, gawking. I knew exactly what to do when I heard myself utter "This is not what I expected"