"Excuse me," Jeff said to the man with the mutton-chop sideburns and extremely flamboyant pants, "this may seem like a stupid question -- In fact, forget about the 'may'. It is a stupid question, and I assure you the fact that I'm forced to ask it is making me die a little bit inside -- but what's the year?"
The man adjusted his weird electric monocle and squinted in confusion.
"Why, my dear sir," he exclaimed, "this is the far-flung aeon of 2076! A time of wonders and miracles galore! Where the human entity is exploring further and deeper into the universe than previously thought imaginable! You stand in a future of unrivaled glories the likes of which the world has never before seen and never again will! My dear sir, allow me to grant you welcome to the wonderful world of tomo--"
Jeff punched him.
"There's one thing that I don't get about all this," Britta reflected as the study group stared at the 'time machine' (and really, hardest thing to believe about all this was -- apparently, the sarcastic air-quotes around 'time machine' were completely undeserved), "and that is that I didn't think it was at all possible to make a time machine out of used cereal boxes and crazy glue."
Annie shot her a skeptical look. "That's the only thing you don't understand about any of this."
"I dated a physics drop-out once," Britta snapped back defensively.
"It's because you're looking at it wrong," Abed insisted. He was wearing his 'Inspector Spacetime' costume, but for reasons that no one either knew or cared about had added a felt old-timey moustache that curled at the edges to the ensemble as well. "To the untrained mind, it only looks like cereal boxes and crazy glue if you don't understand it. Much like the Dreamatorium, you need to be able to perceive higher frames of reality in order to truly understand it's potential."
There was a long pause while everyone present refrained from kicking Abed's ass, and that was only because he was the only one who knew how the damn thing 'worked'.
"So, I don't get it," Pierce said eventually. "If this is the future, where are the green-skinned alien babes with huge --"
"It's the future alright," Jeff said as he stalked back over to his friends, seething, "2076, to be precise."
Shirley raised her eyebrows. "2076? How does all of this," she waved her arm vaguely in the direction of the yellow-green sky filled with bubble-like flying cars, rocket-ships, flying saucers and the gleaming crystal spires of the buildings surrounding them, "happen in just sixty-four years?"
"I don't know, Shirley," Jeff snapped back, "But I just kicked the crap out of some reject from a steampunk convention to prove it. Now, I don't know crap-all about any of this sci-fi stuff, but I'm guessing that that's the kind of thing that gets you sentenced to some kind of weird moon-base where they cut chunks of your brain out and make you jerk off over pictures of Glorious Leader or whoever's in charge here. Which is so not on my list of things to do today. Ergo, I move we go back to our proper time right this very second and forget this whole goddamn thing ever happened."
"Can't," Abed replied, "we need to wait for the time batteries to recharge."
Jeff sighed irritably. "And by 'time batteries', I assume you mean that scale model of the Delorean in the fish bowl."
Abed pointed and clicked his tongue. Another bout of not-beating-Abed-up ensued.
"You guys! You guys!" Troy ran up to them, waving his arms. He looked frantic, horrified and amazed in equal measure. "You, uh... you might wanna see this."
The study group stared at the huge statue of Ben Chang that was sneering down at them. The expression of mockery on the statue's face seemed directed right at them.
There was a long, long silence.
"What," Jeff began.
"This sucks so much," Britta exploded.
"Chang?!" Shirley shouted. "Chang is a historical figure of note here?!"
"The crap," Jeff continued.
"Apparently," Abed noted, peering at an inscription, "he's more like a God-figure."
This did not mollify Shirley. "God?!" she shrieked. "Chang is God?!"
"You know," Annie fumed, "I was actually looking forward to the future before today. Way to kick my optimism right in the nuts there, future."
"Is that." Jeff finished.
"It's okay," Pierce said. Everyone turned to hear what comforting words he might have to say. "I thought I saw a naked green skinned alien chick. But it's was actually a regular nude chick. Apparently standards around public nudity have relaxed considerably."
Everyone glared at him for a full half minute.
"Well, pardon me for finding the silver lining around the storm-cloud," Pierce retorted petulantly.
"How did this happen?!" Jeff demanded. "How does a guy who lives in an air vent with a monkey become worshipped as a God?"
"Shut up and let Pierce continue," Troy replied authoritatively.
"There are legends," said the wizened old man in rags who suddenly appeared right beside them. Everyone jumped, because hey, strange wizened old man in rags suddenly appearing right beside them. "Legends of a great battle, between the Changlorious One and those terrible, terrible figures they call the Evil Seven Douches."
"Gee," Jeff said deadpan, "I wonder who they're supposed to be."
"The Evil Seven Douches," the old man continued, "who rejected the Changlorious One despite his awesome and totally accurate attempts to teach them The Espanol, in spite of the fact that they were weird and sexually undesirable. Who tried to have him kicked him out of the Greendale We Now Call Paradise. But then there was a mighty battle, and the Changlorious One stood triumphant over his defeated foes, who all had small penises, even the so-called female ones."
If it was possible for three people to synchronously take on the exact same expression of rage, then Shirley, Annie and Britta managed it.
"And that was just the beginning of the Changlorious One's rise," the wizened old man, "and the wondrous horrors that followed." He bowed his head in grave reverence of the statue.
"You know," Troy said thoughtfully, "this guy sounds just like the guy who does the voice-over narration for Civilization V."
There was an alarming vein bulging in Jeff's forehead. "Abed," he said, in a voice of barely controlled rage, "how long before the time machine can take us back home?"
Abed consulted a read-out -- which is to say, he looked at the nutritional details on the side of the Fruit Loops box. "Four hours, seven minutes, thirty two seconds," He answered.
Jeff turned to his friends. "Which means we've got four hours, seven minutes and thirty two seconds of study. We're gonna go to the library, read up on everything we can find about Chang, find out how this nightmare happened, and when we get back do everything in our power to make sure it never comes to pass."
"'Nightmare' seems a bit strong," Britta observed.
"Yeah, apart from the Chang thing, this place doesn't seem that bad." Shirley agreed.
"Naked ladies," Pierce volunteered.
Jeff swung around and glared at them. "No. This? Is a nightmare. I don't care if they have world peace, unlimited energy, oceans made out of chocolate, and scotch and boobs falling from the sky. I refuse to allow a future to come to pass which has people making statues of Chang instead of me. And if that means I have to invent Skynet and nuke the entire goddamn planet to make sure, then so help me I will." He swung around and stalked off.
"You know," Britta said thoughtfully, "for a guy who claims to know nothing about science fiction, he sure knows a lot of science fiction references."
"Agreed," Abed nodded, "he's kind of awesome when he's in the future."
Annie folded her arms and stepped in front of everyone decisively. "Jeff's right," she declared. "A world where this happens," she pointed at the statue, "is not a world I want for my children."
"Definitely agreed," Shirley grumbled.
"We should go to Greendale," Troy observed as everyone began to follow Jeff. "From what I could tell when I was asking around, it's now the greatest and most prestigious education institution on the entire planet."
Everyone looked at him skeptically. Even in a far-flung future with flying cars, multicoloured skies and people worshipping an insane ex-Spanish teacher, that seemed a leap too far.
"There may have been a few world wars," Troy allowed. "And global warming did a number on most of the coasts. Also, a couple of ice ages. And I kind of got the impression China and parts of Europe just disappeared one day for no reason."
His voice faded into the distance as the study group hurried towards the nearest library, leaving the wizened old man alone, in quiet contemplation in front of the statue.
That is, until it suddenly blurred and crackled with strange lightning before changing into a statue of Jeff Winger.
Then Abed Nadir.
Then Jeff Winger again. Then Troy Barnes. It kind of rapidly flipped between Jeff and Troy a few times before changing into Abed again, before it just started changing too quickly to follow. Annie and Shirley showed up a few times, then (very briefly) Britta, then (even more briefly) Pierce, before with an almighty thunder-clap, the statue settled on a final form, of a young man in glasses doing jazz-hands, with a huge grin on his face.
MAGNITUDE, The inscription now read, THE MAN WHO SAVED THE FUTURE
SPECIFICALLY, FROM CHANG, it read in smaller lettering underneath.
(POP POP!), even smaller lettering noted.
"Goddamnit," the old man groused. "Now I have to re-do my history Ph.D. Again. Fucking time-travellers."
Grumbling, he turned and walked away.