Imagine for a second that some strange man visited you and told you that you could go back in time to ancient Greece. You could bring anything you wanted or needed with you, and there would be no penalties for your mucking about with history, also, people everywhere would understand whatever you said and you would understand whatever they said. How would it go?
I think, if it were me, it would go something like this…
It was only after I stepped outside that I realized what these people thought of me. Here I was, in some weird contraption that had just materialized in the middle of the Athenian Senate, stepping out and looking at the crowd. They could see that I was the same as them, but I wore different clothes – strange clothes, really. A shirt displaying some alien symbology and words (or just a band logo, but they probably didn’t know what a band was, let alone who The Who were), strange blue pants, and these strange contrivances enclosing my feet. The response was stunned silence, until a man who appeared to be of some importance stood and spoke. He did try to sound authoritative, but I can understand how hard it must have been for him: “Who are you?”
I was taken aback for a moment – this was Greece, after all, they didn’t speak English – then my science-fiction suspension of disbelief set in. I could understand them, and if my science fiction was correct then universal translators worked both ways, meaning that even though my English wouldn’t exist for another 2000 years or so they would have no trouble understanding me. I started for a moment, then stopped. Who, indeed, was I?
I didn’t need to answer yet: “He must be a god!” another proclaimed.
I looked straight at the man who had stood to say such a thing. “Really? I never knew that.”
“Then how did you do that?”
“Do you think I understand?” More silence. “…Maybe we should just get back to the original question. My name is ….., though that’s probably unimportant. I’m no god, just someone from the future. A future, at least.” I quickly pulled out the section of newspaper I had put into my pocket — the text was still there, unchanged. If I remembered Back to the Future correctly, that meant that all was well and good and my interference hadn’t had any effect – yet. I would have to check the rest of my knowledge bank later. I was about to show them the date, then realized that didn’t mean anything to them either and they probably wouldn’t be able to read it. “I come bringing you tools, aid and knowledge to improve this world and expand our reach.”
The important one stood again. I hated not knowing ancient Greek governance, as I had no idea what to call him. “Prove to us that you have not come to destroy us.”
“Prove that I have.”
This caused an uncomfortable titter in the audience, and the important man took a step closer to me. I also noticed armed guards at the door who were giving me unfavorable looks. “Kakodaemons and other evil beings often promise great rewards only to lead their followers to doom. Prove that you do not bring that to us.”
I looked at the guards, then looked at the…senator. “Those guards have iron armor, yes?”
The senator was taken aback. “Of course. The senatorial guard wear only the finest armor.”
“And your enemies use the same?”
“They do, though our greatest enemies in Sparta are fierce warriors.”
“Bring me a plate of this armor.” The senator gestured to one of the guards, who came forward and removed his breastplate, offering it to me tentatively. I shook my head. “Stand next to the Speaker, and hold that armor away from you. Make sure nobody is behind it.”
There was a note of general confusion, and the important man — the one I had given the title of Speaker — gave me a look of utter bewilderment. “Speaker?”
“You preside over the governing body. My people have a similar body, and we call the presiding officer the Speaker.” The Speaker still looked lost, but he simply gestured to the guard, who did as I asked. I then pulled out the M1911 pistol that I had stuck in my belt, taking careful aim at the plate. “This is going to be very loud.”
I gave them a count of ten to cover their ears, and then emptied M1911’s magazine. Seven shots rang out, but by the fifth the guard had dropped the plate to cover his own ears, so four shots put holes in the plate while the other three embedded themselves in the stone walls. I pulled the trigger four more times to demonstrate that the magazine was empty before putting the gun on the ground and kicking it across the floor to the guard and the Speaker. The guard picked up the gun, looked at his armor breastplate, then back at the gun; senators close to the wall where my last three shots had ended up. Everyone present looked astounded, and the Speaker once again did his job: “How…how is this possible?”
I walked up to him, removing an individual bullet from another magazine on my belt and holding it up to him. “This,” I pointed to the flat end of the bullet, “is a primer. When it is hit, it makes a small explosion. In this case is gunpowder, which will explode when set on fire. The primer sets off the gunpowder, pushing the lead tip,” I now touched the bullet’s tip, “out of the case and towards the target faster than sound travels. Such speed allows the bullet to penetrate all but the strongest of armor, rendering it mostly useless. When used correctly, even this small gun can kill with a single shot.”
The Speaker took the bullet in his hand gingerly and marveled at it. “Magic?”
I shook my head. “Nope. I can help you make these guns. They’re not the only kind of gun, either – if you need to penetrate stronger armor, there are bigger bullets. If you need to shoot a target from afar, there are larger guns with lenses that you can look through in order to aim the gun. If you need to shoot a lot of bullets in a short amount of time, there are guns for that. There are even massive guns – cannons – that could reduce this entire city to rubble in less than a day.”
The Speaker looked straight at me. “And you would give us these to use against our enemies?”
“Yes. And more. I can give you medicine to help your sick and wounded, I can help you build giant torches to light this city at night as though it were day, torches that would burn for days – months – years without replenishment. I can help you build a cart that is driven by a machine, allowing it to go faster than you can imagine and travel over mountains while you sit inside in comfort; hell, I could help you build a ship that can sail against the currents thanks to machine power. I can give you machines that will heat or cool your buildings, keep your food cold so that it can be stored longer, cook your food without having to build a fire, and even to help raise and prepare your food before it is eaten. I can even build you a ship that will sail against the current. And more – more than I can talk about, more than you’ve probably dreamed about.”
“And what will you take from us for this?”
“All I ask is that I become your leader.”
The Speaker looked back at the assembly. “All those who would accept this…man’s offer?” he entire assembly, save for a few, stood. The Speaker gave a cursory glance, then nodded and everyone sat. “All opposed?”
Those who did not accept stood, and one spoke loudly: “He shall bring us to ruin! Do not believe his lies!”
The Speaker looked at him, then at me, then back at him. “Be seated.” Turning to me again, he knelt. “What is your…title?”
“I am the Emperor.”
“What is your command, Emperor?”
I paused, looking back at the time machine I’d come in. This was the point of no return – I couldn’t back out after this. Once I continued, there was no going home.
I thought of home. Thought of the people I knew there, thought of the things I loved.
“Rise, Speaker. Bring more guards, and then follow me into the Golden Age.”
And so my Empire was founded.