New Story Idea: Quick Treatment

I’m still entertaining the idea of an entirely new story for my fifth novel.  Here is the summary of a screenplay I wrote in 2001, which could be adapted into a novel.


The protagonist, Hugo Wells, is a quantum physicist working at a small research company in Burlington, MA.  He has a radical idea for a new piece of technology, and while his company has not agreed to work on it, they have allowed him to pursue the project using their equipment on his own time.  Wells hopes to invent a time capsule device, a machine that would remove anything inside its sphere of influence from the current timeline for a specified period.

The applications for life extension are the most obvious use of such a device, although one could also use it to take a one-way trip to the future if they so desired.  Just as Wells is ready to test a prototype, the company rescinds its permission, and Wells is forced to conduct the first test in his home.

The test is a success, but due to a mathematical error, the machine is in operation for 300 years rather than the 30 seconds Wells had planned.  He finds himself, his room, and everything in it, to be perfectly preserved in an otherwise abandoned and crumbling government warehouse.  The device created a sphere that effective froze everything in it.  All attempts to penetrate the sphere failed, so the government built a lab around it.

Eventually, a global cataclysm struck (I originally conceived of a super-virus, though any horrible disaster would work) that killed 99% of the world’s population and thrust civilization into a three hundred year dark age, from which they are only just beginning to emerge.  Wells finds himself in the wilds of Massachusetts, long since overtaken by nature.  Fortunately for him, he was a member of the National Guard and owned a couple of firearms, so he has the weapons and gear he needs to survive as he strikes out.  He believes he can reverse the device and go home, but lacks the power source to do so (yes, I am ripping off Back to the Future here to some extent).

Wells eventually finds a settlement that is on the verge of creating a centralized hydroelectric dam with limited electrical service to a few nearby buildings.  He initially identifies himself as a wanderer, but the leader of the settlement finds fault with his story due to the remarkable quality of his weapons and gear, none of which has been manufactured for 300 years.  The leader goads the truth from Wells, and from that point forward becomes the antagonist.  He is familiar with the single-timeline theory, and is worried that if Wells returns to his own time, he will prevent the disaster.  If the leader’s timeline ceases to exist, then all of his struggles and rediscovered technological advances will be meaningless.

Though Wells attempts to convince the leader that the multiple timelines theory is more probable, he nonetheless imprisons Wells and confiscates his device, weapons, and gear.  While in the stockade, Wells meets a fellow prisoner by the name of Fernwyn, a young woman who was arrested for theft.  She helps him escape, and together they venture to Wells’ company in the hope of retrieving a second device that was secreted away in the basement three centuries ago.  Though that device is inoperable, it does have the spare parts that they need to make the original device work again.  The abandoned laboratory is controlled by bandits, so there is an action sequence involved with this scene as well.

With the spare device in hand, Wells and Fernwyn hatch a plan to sneak into the settlement, retrieve the original device, and hook it into the prototype electrical generator at the dam.  Obviously, this does not go as planned, and the climax of the story involves an action sequence culminating with the successful integration of the device into the hydroelectric power system.  Wells and Fernwyn are sent back to his own time, and everybody lives happily ever after…

Oh, except that Wells and Fernwyn need to convince somebody in charge of something that there is a serious cataclysm coming up that will all but obliterate humanity.  But that is another story.

So, in the spirit of a classic brainstorming session, there is my story idea.  If this idea piques anyone’s interest beyond the casual, I can send you a copy of the original screenplay.

About David Kantrowitz

I am the author of Reckless Faith, The Tarantula Nebula, and Bitter Arrow, a science fiction adventure trilogy, as well as The Fox and the Eagle and Dun Ringill, stand-alone sci-fi adventures. This blog will feature new fiction as I create it.
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2 Responses to New Story Idea: Quick Treatment

  1. John says:

    I remember reading it. As a general concept, I liked it. As I recall, my original significant quibble with the story was his membership in the National Guard. While I don’t think it is inconceivable, it felt like an overly convenient plot point. I think it would have sat better with me if he’d had to start from a greater disadvantage such as being a recreational hunter or target shooter, or someone who owned something for home protection. This also draws in the dilemma of having to kill someone — someone in the NG would be trained trained for that and it can easily become an ancillary point. But if someone, untrained in combat, has to resort to taking a human life, there is more plot and character complexity there.

    Throwing in that he was an avid camper, hiker, etc. would easily explain any survival skills. These things also could have survived in the sphere of influence. I’ve known several hardcore campers who tended to use their camping items in their daily life (flashlights, utensils, etc.).

    Overall, this is a story I wish you’d written into a book; and I look forward to you doing so. I enjoyed it. I particularly liked the currency system you used.

    As other reading, I highly recommend “Canticle for Liebowitz”. Another post-apocalyptic story, but well done in my opinion.

    • Devonai says:

      Thanks for the feedback! As you know, I like to have at least one character with combat training in order to facilitate action sequences. It doesn’t have to be Wells, of course.

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