Issue #1 It was 3:00 AM on Sunday, October 2nd. Coach Jones stood on the observation deck of the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center. The sound of the celebrating players has long faded, and the energy from his enthusiastic staff was now gone as well. His own jubilation had also abated, leaving the familiar sick pit in his stomach that he had come to know well these last 5 weeks. Well, technically 9 weeks, though he didn’t live all of them. In a way, he has only lived two, he mused. The sick feeling momentarily intensified. Purpling at these thoughts, he turned and began his walk. The occasional car whizzed by on the roads, with music blaring. Laughter and loud conversation spilled out from them as they passed, too wrapped up in their revelry to notice who it was that plodded along the sidewalk, winding down the street towards the Hill. Butch paid them no mind. He had to see it again. He had to see the fate he had so narrowly avoided this night. He had to see the horror that would likely still claim him, eventually. Coach Jones had walked a little way up the east side of the Hill, with Neyland Stadium looming behind him and the science buildings the wrapped around the crown of the university’s iconic landmark. He had reached the passage. The brick passage. Butch quickly scanned around him to make sure there were no drunken students or random passersby around. Satisfied, he unlocks the door and ducks inside the tunnel. He quickened his pace. Josh doesn’t like it when he’s late. After a few winding turns through the brick tunnel, passing room after room with pallets of extra bricks, he reached the end. The door was open and waiting for him. He stepped inside. The Machine loomed before him. Large computer towers lined the brick walls, with blinking lights and terminals attached. Large cords led from each one into the central console, and from there a web of wires ran to a yellow square in the middle of the room. “I was afraid you wouldn’t show.” Dobbs’ voice showed little sign of exertion from his athletic heroics earlier that evening. He smoothly spun around on his hover board to face Coach Jones from the far side of the room, and then rolled to the central console. “Jeez, Josh. C’mon. I always show.” Butch cast his eyes down to the floor nervously as he briskly crossed past the yellow square. As he stepped up next to the Command Console and Dobbs, he met the gaze of TK Jr over at the monitoring station by the wall and they exchanged acknowledging nods. “Anything yet?” Butch asked, wincing at the way his voice cracked. “Not yet. We’ll know soon.” Dobbs replied. “You should sit down Coach, we wouldn’t want you to faint and hurt yourself. I won’t let you sit on the sideline with a stool.” A slight grin was spread across Dobbs’ mouth, but his eyes were stone, as unyielding as his brow. “What would it matter,” muttered Butch. “You’ll have the information either way. I’m just the messenger.” Dobbs’ grin evaporated as he turned towards his coach, his legs and neck never moving as the hover board pivoted. “You’re mine, Lyle. I take care of my things. I like to keep them in good working order. If you’re damaged, I’ll send you two weeks back and the next ‘Coach Jones’ will know to be more careful after his Georgia win. If he gets the Georgia win. Who knows how many times it took to get this one?” Butch began to purple. “So what? We could do it again. I know we could. I believe in you guys. And now we know: Hail Mary to Jennings. I called it perfectly.” Dobbs laughed. “Ya, right. Forgetting something?” Butch purpled his forehead and thought. “Oh right, and don’t run Hurd in the 4th to avoid that injury.” He was pleased with himself. Quantum paradox resiliency. Yellow lights arranged in a square lit up dimly on the floor beyond the console at which Dobbs and Jones were standing, near the center of the room. Red lights on the consoles and brick-lined walls began to softly glow and then dim in rapid succession. “Incoming traveler. Incoming Traveler,” called out the synthesized voice of Bob Kesling. It was only then that Jones noticed the eerie metal frame of the failed Kesling synthetic replacement against the wall leering out at them. Dobbs had repurposed it into a dim-witted aide in the Quantum-Temporal Mechanics Laboratory. The thing was creepy as hell. Dobbs and TK Jr began working the controls. Butch hugged himself. “No!” he thought. “NO NO NO NO!” He Purpled intensely and began to breathe heavy at the thought of his apparent future failure. “I said sit down, Lyle,” Dobbs sternly barked at him while deftly working the controls. Coach Jones plunked down on a pile of bricks behind him. A bright white light filled the yellow square outline in the floor. That white square quickly grew into a white cube of light. “It can’t be me, it’s too short! Maybe it’s someone else! I come in rectangles!” Butch breathlessly babbled over the inane repetitions of the Robo-Kesling and the whir of the Machine. TK Jr calmly yelled over the din of the Machine, “It’s called a hyperrectangle or n-orthotope, coach. It’s 3D. Not a rectangle.” Dobbs gently shook his head with some mixture of pity and annoyance. “Also known as a ‘box,’ Lyle. And you know it takes a few seconds to come through. It’s you. The chart confirms it.” Jones’ blood ran cold. If the chart confirmed it, it had to be true. Sure enough, the bright white light of the temporal box subsided and revealed its contents: it was Butch Jones. 4:00 AM, Sunday October 9th Butch Jones to be exact. And he was purple as a baboon’s hemorrhoid. His eyes were bloodshot and wide open. “He’s into the cheggarboard, he’s into the cheggarboard!” the Robo-Kesling droned. Future Butch’s voice came through the field of light surrounding him distorted, but intelligible. “We needed more Yell Focus! They came hard off the edge, we needed to match that intensity! Read-option didn’t work! Somehow they knew Hurd was getting it! Resilience! Tell them to be more resilient!” Future Butch continued to roar out what he considered to be the most critical information from the game against Texas A&M that he had just finished coaching, through the mysterious breach of the fourth dimension created by Dobbs’ diabolical Machine. “Damn it, Lyle. Give us something we can use! You’re almost out of time,” Dobbs bellowed. October 2nd Butch Jones was frozen like a grape popsicle, eyes fixed on his other self. The miracle of science that Dobbs had wrought had its limits. The window began to close. Having destroyed the future he came from by interacting with the past, October 9th Jones was now trapped in the fragment of his reality that existed within the hyperrectangle. Both October 9th Jones and October 2nd Jones knew what happened next. They had each seen it happen with their own eyes to their immediate predecessor, and had the perfect memory of seeing it happen to three other prior Joneses. October 2nd and 9th Jones had all the memories of his successful predecessors, and the first one. The Butch Jones that actually came from the original timeline was Jones Prime. He lost to Appalachia state in regulation 24-7. The Tennessee River was red with blood. Tennessee fans tore each other apart due to the rage of unquenched 2016 hype. With roving squads of Homicide-Vols searching for him in the ruins of what was Knoxville, Coach Jones Prime had retreated deep into the bowels of the utility tunnels under the Hill. And that is where Dobbs came to him with a chance for redemption- at a price. Dobbs led him to the Machine. Dobbs explained that the only way to save the future of the fan base was for Butch to sacrifice his own. He could be sent back in time to briefly appear within a temporal field set up in the past, in a pocket-present. Dobbs explained that these pocket-presents had to be constructed a week prior to sending a traveler back, but that wouldn’t be a problem. He had anticipated the possibility of needing the Machine by Week 1 and had established a receiver for the presence of a pocket-present a week prior: Week Zero. Given the state of the Volosphere, Jones Prime had little choice. From the perspective of subsequent Joneses, Tennessee won the first game of the season in overtime thanks to the heroic efforts of Josh Dobbs. After the game, Dobbs brought Jones-2 to the Machine. Shortly after, the room began to pulse red and a synthetic Bob Kesling voice range out “Traveler incoming. Traveler incoming…” And in that moment, the Jones standing near the console realized he must really be Jones-3. The Jones inside the pocket-present, Jones-2, looked like hell. Clearly time travel takes an immediate toll. Jones-2 stammered in terror, then began spewing forth all the information he thought might improve the timeline and lead to a Tennessee victory. “It’s too late, Josh! Debord forgot most of the playbook this week! You gotta do it yourself!” And on and on. Dobbs stoically maintained the field for as many seconds as he could. After about 10 seconds, to the horror of both Joneses, the pocket-present began to collapse. The walls of the hyperrectangle closed in. Jones-2’s body was compressed and crushed. His screams were cut to a gurgle in moments and then silenced. The scene was grotesque. The pocket-present had collapsed into a small box, compressing what was Jones Prime into a dark red… brick. The pulsing lights and yellow outline extinguished, and the fluorescent lights overhead kicked back on. October 2nd Jones had 4 such memories of future Joneses returning to warn of future doom and then succumbing to a horrific fate. Before Virginia Tech. Before Florida. Before Georgia. And now, before Texas A&M. Everything was fine before Ohio, trust in the process. Each time one of these future Joneses came, it meant that the current Jones was a new Jones. His exact duplicate predecessor had just failed. Thus, by proxy, he would fail without some deviation. So Jones kept on Grinding. “Hey Coach, snap out of it.” Dobbs was gently shaking Coach Jones by the shoulder. TK Jr was wearing latex gloves and wiping up the gore around the solid dark red brick of the recently travelled Jones. “So, I guess I’m a new Jones again,” Butch muttered. “Looks like. You better go home and get some sleep. You got a lot of work if you want to be the last Coach Jones.” Dobbs was cold-blooded. “Well, Coach Jones 6 has a good ring to it. I just got to put on more steam.” Butch began strolling towards the elevator door, before he felt the perplexed stare coming from Dobbs and TK Jr. “Coach… why would you be only number 6?” TK Jr. asked? “Let me educate you, Todd. I have a clear memory of 4 Jones travelers, and there was one before that. Before Appy State, before the Battle of Bristol, before Florida, before Georgia, and just now during Texas A&M week. That makes me 6. We nailed Ohio on the first try, by the way. I just want to remind you of that.” He was greeted with an awkward silence. Dobbs cleared his throat. “Coach… you only remember the travelers that came before the successful week. That’s why you only remember 5.” Butch stood there, purple. “Wait. What do we do with these bricks?” Jones croaked, a sense of purple purpling over him. “Coach, they’re here,” the players said, motioning to the brick structure around them. “W-w-what?,” Jones purpled. “Right here. We set up the machine in the parking lot. We just stack the bricks wherever we can find room. Brick by brick."