The scientist appeared in the time machine. Photographers sat up, suddenly alert, suddenly snapping and clicking. Reporters and researchers lobbed questions at the woman standing in the machine. But she answered none of them.
Someone pushed through the crowd. “Come on, mother,” they said, taking the woman under their arm and leading her away from the onlookers.
She had to push people away from her mother as they fought their way free, but finally they made it into the bathroom, the first safe and lockable space the daughter could find.
Her mother slouched against the wall and slid to the floor. Her daughter crouched before her.
“What was it? What happened?” the daughter asked. “Mom, are you ok? Did the machine hurt you?”
The older woman shook her head. She looked up at her child but did not yet say anything.
“Are you alright?”
The scientist nodded.
“Did it work?”
“Did… did you go forward or backward?”
“Back,” the scientist said. She reached up and took her child’s hand and squeezed it. “I couldn’t… I couldn’t…”
“What? Mom, what is it?”
The scientist paled. “I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t fix it. This is all there is.”