Note # 1

The experiment is now in its final stage. All the preliminary tests were successful, despite the scepticism of many, and we are ready for what should be the apotheosis. We went step by step, improving our procedure thanks to the time-honoured method of trial and error. First we attempted to retrieve some inorganic material, a handful of rocks and dirt. We were ecstatic when it surfaced in our laboratory. It was the first time in the history of science that man managed to retrieve material successfully from the past.

We then tried our luck with organic material: a patch of moss, a few plants, a number of insects. The results were astonishing. Although some theorists had proven that no life-form could survive the retrieval process, the creatures all turned up in perfect condition. The entomologists had a field day – after all a living insect culled from the distant past is something else entirely than a dead specimen trapped in amber for ages. A small rodent followed the insects, and we knew we were on the right track.

It was already clear then that science would benefit greatly from our project. Our funding was immediately increased, and our achievements were covered widely by the mass media. The general feeling was that we were writing history.

And so we were. The question burning on everyone’s lips was of course: would we pull off our main objective, retrieving a Neanderthal man from the past, alive and in good health? On the basis of the string of successes we enjoyed, we are hopeful. Yet this final stage of the experiment will not be carried out without some trepidation.

Note # 2

The great day has almost arrived, the day we’ve been working towards for a long time now. Even if we’re thoroughly prepared, we’re all very nervous. After all the experiment we’re about to carry out is the first of its kind ever, and there are too many factors beyond our control. For instance, we have no way to predict how a Neanderthal man will react when he finds himself suddenly and inexplicably transported into an alien environment. Will he be too shocked to make a move? Will he collapse with a nervous breakdown or a heart attack? Will he be aggressive? And then there are considerations of another nature: Will he succumb to bacteria that are harmless to us? We can only wait and see. Obviously all precautions have been taken, medical and otherwise.

The final test runs all proved positive. All computer hardware and software is functioning as scheduled, the temporal retrieval mechanism performs perfectly within its parameters. Nothing should go wrong as far as the technical side is concerned.

Tomorrow we may have the answers to the questions that occupied so many scientists. What did Neanderthal man look like? A hairy savage, or an intelligent human? Did he wear clothes? Did he carry weapons or tools? Did he have a language? And most importantly, why and how did he disappear?

Note # 3

The tension in the laboratory rose to an unprecedented level as the retrieval mechanism geared up for its mission. We tried to picture it before our mind’s eye, descending through the ages, selecting the proper time and space, tracking its target, locking onto it, and retrieving it. Put in those terms, it appears quite simple. In actual fact it is probably one of the most ground-breaking scientific experiments ever attempted, and a true milestone in anthropology.

With bated breath we watched as our man materialised in his cubicle. We just stared at him, barely realising the experiment had been successful and called for celebration.

His physical aspect was more or less what we had expected. A short, sturdily built man. Heavy muscles. An elongated skull with prominent brow ridges. He looked a lot more human than some might have assumed. He wore clothes, rather crudely made. Unsurprisingly, he was wondering what had happened to him and in which strange new environment he had surfaced. He showed no signs of aggression.

It started to dawn on us we had pulled it off. We had managed to retrieve a Neanderthal man from the distant past and deliver him safe and sound in the present. The scientific adventure could begin. Who knew what our examinations might yield?

Note # 4

Something completely inexplicable has happened. Three hours after our successful experiment, another Neanderthal man materialised in the cubicle. Fortunately there were still staff members around who managed to keep the situation under control.

The retrieval mechanism was checked and turned out to have indeed been set for one single operation. It had been put on stand-by correctly, and should not have resumed its activity. Technicians immediately started looking into the matter. As they failed to pinpoint the cause of the problem right away, a multi-shift emergency team was assembled that would supervise the cubicle and the rest of the complex on a twenty-four hour a day basis.

No risks were taken considering the importance of the project.

Note # 5

The first night shift witnessed the appearance of a Neanderthal woman. While she was taken care of by the scientific and medical staff, technicians desperately tried to fix the problem, but had to admit they made no progress. It was clear the retrieval mechanism was malfunctioning, although no defect could be discovered, and all computer hardware and software was running well within normal parameters.

Early in the morning another woman and a young child followed. Like the previous arrivals, they were all transferred to the Neanderthal Habitat that had been built, both as a shelter and as a quarantine zone. Although it had been conceived with one occupant in mind, it could easily hold a few more people.

However, if Neanderthals will keep popping up here we will have to look for another solution, and at extremely short notice.

Note # 6

Technicians have tried to shut down the retrieval mechanism and all computer hardware and software, but to no avail. For reasons beyond everyone’s grasp, the system remains on-line and doggedly sticks to its mission to retrieve Neanderthals.

By now more than a dozen individuals have emerged in the cubicle. As the Habitat is now full, make-shift accommodation has been erected for the newest arrivals. The situation is putting the whole staff under incredible strain. Problems of this magnitude were not foreseen, and we have now reached the stage where solutions must be improvised, without the manpower to perform as required.

On top of that two other problems reared their ugly heads: the press and mass media, always eager to cover a sensationalist story about an uncontrollable disaster, and the arrival on the scene of hordes of spectators – both categories are kept at bay by security teams, but the entire situation is getting out of hand.

Note # 7

We are facing a major crisis: it has become totally impossible to construct shelters for the influx of Neanderthals – more than sixty by now – and keep them in quarantine. Our relatively modest staff has been joined by teams of scientists, technicians, security people, construction workers and even army people. We’re working in what I can only label a Disaster Area. There are medical risks, safety risks, and too many other risks too mention.

There is no hope anymore for fixing or even shutting down the retrieval mechanism. We limit ourselves to dealing with the newcomers as best we can. Fortunately the army is helping us to keep everyone away who is not supposed to be here.

It is clear that we cannot continue like this. Something has to be done. The problem is that no one knows what.

Note # 8

A theory is doing the rounds, shrugged off as a crackpot theory by all of the scientists and technicians involved in the Project. A syntactical error was made while programming the retrieval mechanism’s software: it was set to retrieve “Neanderthal man” rather than “a Neanderthal man”, and thus the entire species is being culled from the past.

The ICT people confirmed that no such syntactical mistake is possible, but the popular press, never too keen on scientific accuracy, and a large part of its readership embrace this idea, for which they claim the evidence is stacked up high and which the authorities are trying to dismiss for reasons that are hidden from the public. A major conspiracy theory can’t be far off.

In the meantime Neanderthals keep turning up in huge numbers, and are sheltered in army tents. It remains to be seen for how long this exponentially increasing population of temporal immigrants will be controllable.

Note # 9

Our biggest nightmare has come true: the swelling ranks of Neanderthal men and women are no longer happy to stay in their tents and makeshift barracks. They are on the move, and there’s little we can do about it. We can hardly ask the army to shoot them. After all we’re to blame for their presence here, even if it wasn’t quite planned that way.

These people are tough and ready to tackle any problem they find on their path – and that includes us, good old homo sapiens. The Neanderthals survived two Ice Ages, and will no doubt also survive their unexpected travel through time. And we’ll have to put up with them, or simply make room – large-scale evacuation of the Disaster Area is being considered as the newcomers claim the territory they were brought to.

More of them are arriving in the cubicle all the time. We simply allow them to join their fellow men. No attempt is made to deal with the situation. Our failure to contain the problem is total.

We no longer try to keep journalists and spectators at bay either. They are free to approach the Neanderthals, at their own risk. Most of them wisely fled the premises, though.

Note # 10

At least most of our questions have been answered. We now know why no Neanderthal remains or fossils were found after a certain date. That date is the one where our retrieval mechanism locked onto them and transported them one by one to the here and now.

All the theories about the Neanderthals’ extinction were wrong. They did not become extinct due to climate change or contact with other types of homo sapiens. They were not absorbed by or assimilated with these other types. As a matter of fact, they did not run into any problems at all.

They were all shipped to the present. Vast numbers have arrived by now, and the rest are on their way.

They seem to communicate well, even if their language sounds pretty rudimentary to us. We’ve seen no evidence of them making any tools, but they pick up whatever looks handy and use it skilfully as tools – or as weapons.

They’re clearly not happy to remain resigned “temporal immigrants”, opting instead to be militant colonists. Obviously we are the ones running into trouble now…

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