by James

The Chancellor’s hopes were low for this demo - brainwaves plucked from the ether and converted into virtual reality? All the faculty wondered it; what was the man smoking to come up with these things? Crackpot pipe?

He followed Professor Higgins past crates overflowing with dusty machines sprouting wires and dangly bits into a room free of clutter. In the centre was a low padded bench next to a wheeled cart topped with a metal box with touchscreens and glowing lights.

The Chancellor gamely sat and placed the black and grey headset over his head.

He opened his eyes upon a gloomy basement. In his mouth was the taste of sweat and dank earth. His arms were behind his back, wrists squirming but held firm by ropes that burned.

A face loomed from the darkness, eyes sunk deep in his cheeks but they blazed bright with fervour. He raised a straight arm up in front of him and in his hand was a dull black metal pistol.

The Chancellor murmured, ‘Oh my,’ before the man shot him in the chest.

The basement spun, his vision had gone red and he began to scream and claw at the ruins of his chest at the same time as his still bound arms wrenched in pain against the ropes still binding them.

Now it was light again. Higgins hovered next to him with the headset. The Chancellor gingerly touched at his chest. No bullet hole, no pain. His heart was racing, his breathing ragged.

‘That was…incredible. It felt so real.’

Higgins began to grin. ‘It was real. Those were the last moments of Csar Nicolas II.’

‘You put that into a VR game?’

Higgins sighed.

‘This is not some tawdry game! This is real history, those were the last echoing thoughts of a man who died one hundred years ago.’ He puffed up smugly. ‘Do you know how hard it is to read brainwaves through time?’

Now the Chancellor sighed. He rubbed at his weary eyes.

‘Something a little gentler?’ Higgins said. ‘I have a man on a train with a lovely bowl of soup. He talks to a man called Erqule Pwa-roh. Ring a bell? I’ve scoured all my history books.’

The Chancellor opened his mouth but no words would come out.

‘I know,’ Higgins said. ‘Takes my breath away sometimes.’ He turned to his machine and began scrolling through items on one of the screens. ‘Let’s see…’

‘Hercule Poirot is a famous fictional Belgian detective.’

‘That’s the fella!’ Higgins grinned. ‘Wait. Fictional?’

‘Do you also have something about a sixties detective up north?’

‘Well yes…’

‘That’s called Heartbeat. Ten series in the nineties I believe.’

The Chancellor rose. He placed friendly hands on the idiot’s shoulders, and then bellowed it - ‘You’re picking up sodding ITV 3!’

Higgins crumpled. The Chancellor helped him to the bench. Then he had to sit as he realised.

‘My God, man,’ he said. ‘You’ve just built the world’s first three-dimensional video recorder.’