When awareness comes, I'm sitting in a four-person cubicle, one person intended for each quarter. But there are only two other people here, two young women, one blonde, one brunette; the other quarter of the desk has no chair or equipment; it's given over to storage.
I'm wearing a suit, and I have a typewriter. There's a sheet in it, but it's blank.
I have no idea what I'm supposed to do. The two women pay no attention to me; they're focused entirely on their own work.
Bewildered, I rise. Our cubicle is but one in a sea of them, a sea that covers the expansive floor space entirely save for one walled office in a far corner. I make my way there through the narrow passages between the cubicles, certain that the office must have a supervisor.
The door is open. I rap gently on the doorframe, and a dark-haired woman in her mid-forties turns away from her conversation and looks at me blankly.
"Earl? What's up?"
"When you have a minute, can I talk to you?" I ask.
"Sure," she says, and goes back to her business.
On my way back to my cubicle, I take a closer look at my surroundings. Everyone is working on typewriters and using notepads. There are no computers, no monitors, no smartphones. I spot a Telex machine nestled into the corner opposite the office.
My heart starts to pound. Something's wrong here.
The dark-haired woman comes to collect me before I even reach my cubicle. "Let's go take care of that pitch meeting with the executive producer," she says.
She escorts me to an office I hadn't noticed before and shuts the door behind us. A grey-haired executive is leaning back in an expensive-looking wood and leather chair, feet propped up on an even more expensive-looking desk. The office is crammed full of books and magazines, with old movie posters on the wall.
"Who've you got for me today, Amanda?" the executive asks.
"This is Earl Woods. He has some ideas for the Star Trek movie that's been stalling us for so long."
I do? I think.
"Great, let's hear them. Can't be any worse than some of the other pitches."
It takes me a moment to collect my thoughts. Given the setting, I realize they must be talking about the first Star Trek movie to debut after the original show.
I reply with a bit of a stammer at first, but I find my footing quickly enough. "Let's say it's five years after the Enterprise has returned from its five-year mission. Captain Kirk is an admiral now, and Spock is the captain of the Enterprise. We have a bigger budget for effects than they did in the original show, so we can establish that the Enterprise has been refit - she's completely new, with the same basic shape, but she's sleeker, faster, more powerful."
I feel bad about stealing so much from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but it's all I can think of at the moment. But maybe I can get creative from this point.
"There's a new first officer, Will Decker - the son of Commodore Decker from 'The Doomsday Machine.' You remember him. Spock is thinking of leaving Starfleet, and he intends to recommend Decker to command the Enterprise when the time comes.
"But there's a signal from a deep-space communications station. Their extreme-range scans have picked up evidence of a megastructure long imagined but never seen: a ringworld, a vast living space built in the habitable zone of a star, with a total surface area of millions of Class M planets. It's an incredible scientific discovery, and only the refit Enterprise has the advanced labs and sensors to do justice to an exploration mission.
"The Federation wants diplomatic and high-ranking Starfleet representation on this mission in case the ringworld is inhabited. Admiral Kirk ensures he's the Starfleet officer that gets to go, and as ambassador the Federation sends Ilia, an empathic Deltan gifted in the diplomatic arts.
"The journey to the ringworld will take months, even at warp speed, but we'll just cover the most important events: building our new characters, reintroducing our original characters, and showing the Enterprise crew preparing for the scientific and diplomatic aspects of the mission.
"When the Enterprise finally reaches the ringworld, it's important that we show the mind-boggling scale of the construct. The Enterprise is but a gnat compared to the ringworld; close up, it will look like a vast, flat wall in space. The ring's curvature can only be perceived with enough distance.
"The science teams perform sensor scans as the Enterprise approaches this strange new world. But not long after the crew catches their first glimpse of the star-facing side of the ring--revealing vast seas, forests, cities, farmlands, mountain ranges, jungles--world after world after world, laid out flat on a giant ring--it happens.
"While Admiral Kirk, Ambassador Ilia, and the senior staff are discussing first contact protocols, Mr. Spock, Lieutenant Commander Uhura, Lieutenant Chekov, and Commander Scott vanish from existence.
"Admiral Kirk immediately takes command of the ship, much to the consternation of Commander Decker, who really should be next in line. Kirk says his experience on the five-year mission trumps Decker's greater familiarity with the Enterprise refit.
"Admiral Kirk hails the ringworld, but no one answers. Kirk orders all shuttles launched to perform sensor scans of different sections of the ringworld, but with such a massive amount of territory to cover, the effort could take years without the wildest stroke of luck.
"But on the ringworld, we, the audience, learn that Spock Uhura, Chekov, and Scott find themselves in the arid foothills of a desert mountain range...with no equipment. Atop one mountain is a spire that reaches toward the stars until it disappears, extending out of the atmosphere and into the darkness. With no other obvious clue to what they should do, they set out for the spire on foot..."
"I like it so far," the executive says. "Spend the weekend with it, finish it up. I have a golf game coming up."
I'm relieved, because I had no concept of an ending. But I do have more immediate concerns.
When we leave the executive's office, I ask Amanda to sit down with me in a little lounge area.
"Have you heard of DVDs or Blu-Rays?" I ask.
"No," she says.
I tell her that I have no memory of being hired, or what my job is. She looks concerned, and said I should get checked out for a concussion or amnesia.
"It's worse than that," I tell her, almost crying. "This is the part that's going to make me sound crazy. What year is this?"
"What year? It's 1976," she answers.
"Oh, god," I groan. "I'm from 2022. I'm not supposed to be here. Oh god, what's happening?"
Thankfully, I transition back to the other world, the one with Sylvia and COVID-19.