The Time-Travelling Techie and the Antoinette Affair

Jo-Jo Jones can travel through time.
When burdened with a genuine personal computer from the dawn of computing itself, she is at a loss for where to put it.
After much pondering, Jo-Jo J. Jones arrives at a final conclusion.
“France!” she declared. “No one would suspect anything strange there!”

Written for the Historical Fiction competition.

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1. "Qu'ils jouent sur l'Atari!"

~~“The poor want bread?”
The man nodded. His neatly sculpted moustache seemed to flex as the young woman’s commanding voice rattled through him like a ferret on a unicycle.
The woman turned her head slowly, to stare away from the shimmering box.
The grid of lights inside the front of the box changed as a construction of letters appeared, almost as if it were under the woman’s command.
Staring down at the man, she opened her mouth and spoke coolly, calmly, and with all the cold force she could muster.
“Then let them play on the Atari.”
***
This was the point where Jo-Jo realised that something had gone badly wrong.
For certain, Marie Antoinette should never have entered into such a conversation in the first place.
Watching in horror as the tall, slim and beautiful Frenchwoman turned back to the screen, resumed her game and continued hammering at ‘Space Invaders’, Jo-Jo J. Jones vanished into thin air in a blaze of time-travelling steam and impromptu improbability.
Of course, the conversation Jo-Jo J. Jones had just heard sounded nothing like: “The poor want bread?”
This was after all, genuinely the dawn of the French Revolution. When Marie Antoinette had screamed ‘Qu’ils jouent sur l’Atari!’ at that poor shivering butler, she had screamed ‘Qu’ils jouent sur l’Atari!’ at a man who should never have laid his eyes upon such a device; nor even heard the word ‘Atari’ in his life.
‘Atari’ is, in fact, a Japanese verb meaning ‘to hit the target’. The company ‘Atari Inc.’ was founded in 1972.
As she turned back to her game, she fingered the side of the keyboard where a stamp read ‘Bert’s Electronics – Sold’.
As Marie Antoinette – Queen of France – blew ‘Space Invaders’ into smithereens, she could not even suspect the consequences.
***

 

 

 

JJJJ123 is Online.
Bertrude76: Hey Jo
JJJJ123: Bert.
Bertrude76: Where hav u been, Jo?
Bertrude76: Wher wer u?
JJJJ123: oh, y’know.
JJJJ123: Around.
Bertrude76: Oh right.
Bertrude76: Is the Atari working?
JJJJ123: Yeah. Wonderfully.
Bertrude76: Yu got Space Invaders goin?
Bertrude76: *Space
JJJJ123: A bit, yeah.
JJJJ123: Hang on…
JJJJ123: Gtg.
Bertrude76: Already?
Bertrude76: Okay, bye :) |: :- <
JJJJ123 Has Logged Off.
***
Jo-Jo Jones could travel through time.
It was quite cool, really.
Not as cool as a DeLorean, but definitely cooler than a phone box and a ‘dude’ named ‘Rufus’. Probably just about as cool as a blue, British police call box, minus Matt Smith, or David Tennant, or whichever one they were up to now.
Jo-Jo J. Jones was a student at a college somewhere south of Doncaster. Her parents had given her the name ‘Josephine’ in the hospital ward before having snide comments targeted at them by other families around the ward.
Her father had decided on the change to the more ‘modern’ name of ‘Jo-Jo’.
Her mother, on the other hand, was insistent that ‘mothers who smoked cigars behind nurses’ backs should not be taken seriously’, and declared that ‘Jo-Jo’ was short for ‘Josephine-Josephine’.
After that, the Jones’ decided that their daughter’s middle name should be Jaqueline. It was only until Mrs Chloe Jones phoned her dear elderly mother in Switzerland that she realised their grave mistake of giving their child the initials ‘JJJJ’.
Josephine-Josephine Jaqueline Jones was not the forgiving type, but she did have a cool signature.
Her friend Bert had given her the Atari as a joke – a ‘blast from the past’ if you will. Jo-Jo had not found the joke particularly funny, especially as she had nowhere to put it.
The problem with old computers, and really old things in general was that they were among other things very large.
Jo-Jo had compared the Atari to Stonehenge, saying that: ‘if they’d done it properly with a bit of thought beforehand, they could have made a lovely Experimental Baroque Conservatory, but no - instead, they ended up making a playground for all the nation’s cavorting druids for thousands of years to come.’
Bert had laughed at this and had told her: ‘well there ain’t any cavorting druids in this old baby’.
Bert knew about these things. He was a hard-core electrician and computer scientist. When his mother had bought him a pen for his most recent birthday, the thank-you letter had read something along the lines of:
‘Wow Mother,
Thank you for the retro pen!   
Yours, Bert’.
Funnily enough, on the topic of ‘Experimental Baroque Conservatories’, Jo-Jo also knew a thing or two. She didn’t tell anyone about her strange or unpredictable abilities, but she had spoken to the architect at the original construction site of Stonehenge, telling him that: ‘it’ll be a dugging ground in years to come,’but did they listen?
So, Jo-Jo had unwittingly accepted the Atari.
She had turned it on.
It had started up.
Before long, she was completely obsessed with ‘Space Invaders’. There was something different about the original that Jo-Jo could not quite put her finger on. Maybe it was the light buzz of the processor; the glare of the screen that could only come from the electron gun, blazing through the coils into the phosphor dots at the back of the screen.
Then came that time late in the evening, when Jo-Jo would have to put it away. Her parents would not appreciate her new toy - that was for certain. She would have to dispose of it some time in history.
“When would be safe?”
“Where would be safe?”
After much pondering, Jo-Jo J. Jones came to a final conclusion.
“France!” she declared. “No one would suspect anything strange there!”
And so she vanished.
***

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