Time Over

Lost in Spacetime
This was like nothing he had ever before experienced. He was spinning, his suit
quiescent after dropping into the wormhole, not knowing if reactivating it would
lead him to his death. At one end – his destination – he saw stars bowing towards
him as if seeing through a lens, the other a timer, clearl! visible above the
wormhole generator. "a!be this had been installed for his benefit, and that this
effect had been anticipated. All the numbers were changing wildl!. He could #ust
make out the hours, the minutes were a blur.
$orandi knew that this time%differential was normal. To the observer in the
lab he had entered the event hori&on in a fraction of a second, onl! to appear
suspended in time upon entering. 'egative energ! surrounding him, a vacuum of
dilated space%time stretching to a &ero%point singularit!, spun to form a ring. 'ot
something he could see or know when he passes through it.
'ow, though, $orandi had to focus. He gave the voice command to deactivate
the counter field.
(ub#ect to the full force of the expanded singularit! he shot towards the mid
point. The suit)s inertial dampers were not enough to prevent him almost losing
consciousness. Onl! as his momentum passed him through the singularit! did he
regain some awareness of the stars before him.
He was alread! out the other end* the suit had ensured the smoothest possible
transition. +t rela!ed to him a star map showing before him the distance from the
stranded ship – a mere two point four million kilometres. He deplo!ed a rela!
beacon, to constantl! record his transmitted position and vital signs and
broadcast to him an! changes in the local environment.
,Activate eight! percent burn,) he instructed the suit. -ift!%two mini fusion
thrusters fired up, sending him surging forward like some children)s animated
superhero. .ithout the extra load of power cells he was carr!ing to revive the
ship his acceleration could have been a hundred gee instead of a mere ten. (till,
he was due to rende&vous in less than two hours.
/et something was causing him to drift off course, strange eddies in the
surrounding space.
Then his location #umped as if he)d been caught up in one of these eddies.
,Anal!se an! spacial anomalies.) $orandi instructed.
,High levels of gravitational distortion. 0annot identif! possible cause.)
He wondered if somehow the wormhole was still having an effect. 1ut when
he checked with the beacon, it had gone* curiousl! the suit had omitted to rela!
that to him. 2id it think this was extraneous information3 He knew the
wormhole couldn)t be sustained for the #ourne! back, in an! case, and would
have to wait it out in the ship. A ship full of humans never sounded ver!
appealing, but out here was something exceptional.
$orandi was having trouble keeping a stead! course, his suit)s fusion units
were constantl! correcting deviations. At least this suit was designed for most
t!pes of gravimetric disturbances, maintained at 4.5 percent light speed.
After an endless two hours the ship was in visual range and he was rapidl!
decelerating.
0oming to a halt at a kilometre from the vessel he made a check with the
transponder beacon, needing the reassurance that it was still functioning. 1ut
when he requested the rela! signal something appeared ver! wrong. The dela! of
five minutes was worr!ing enough, its chronometer readings were even more of
a concern. According to the beacon twent! 67arth8 da!s had passed since his last
transmission request, and his time dilation was becoming exponentiall! greater.
'o relativistic effect could account for this kind of discrepanc!. +t was
something he had no understanding of* his suit was certainl! unable to give an
explanation. He hoped the ship had been affected to the same degree – that their
sub#ective time was onl! counted in da!s – otherwise their corpses should have
been retrieved b! the 1)tari recon crew.
$orandi moved ver! slowl! towards the Farquest. The beacon was set now to
give a constant update. +n what should have taken mere seconds to rela! info was
now taking nearl! ten minutes* the last update told him four months had passed.
The effect must have been getting stronger nearer towards the ship.
T!pical 7arth design, he thought all hard angles, to give the impression of
solidit! and robustness – reassurance that this vessel can withstand the most
extreme conditions space can offer it. A false impression easil! discounted with
the most cursor! knowledge of the cosmos.
He was so caught up in observing the ship he hadn)t noticed what was
happening to the constellations, until his suit told their position had shifted.
.hen he looked, he knew exactl! what this was the water! effect shimmering
over them before the! vanished to reappear in the state the! had been tens of
millions of !ears earlier. The !ounger stars even showed signs of shifting their
output spectrum to the bluer end.
Temporal erasure.
+n this time frame it would be too late. He)d never make it back before the
erasure spread to (ol and wa! be!ond. All life on 7arth no more advanced than
primates. All of human histor! how unique and fascinating it had been* the
richness of its culture, its art and literature – merel! wiped out in a
meaninglessl! short time. .as that reall! what these aliens wanted3 Their idea of
a clean slate, perhaps 9 and for what3
,.hat about me3) he said in the 1)tari home language. ,Are !ou #ust hoping +
will die3)
He wasn)t reall! expecting an answer to this desperate plea for the self.
+nstead he continued edging towards the ship, wondering how the passengers
would react to being told the! were the onl! humans left in existence, if the!
were indeed alive.
The outside hatch to the airlock could not be opened in the normal wa!. He
tried the remote interface port – a simple gold node* his suit emitted an 7"
signal in an attempt to communicate with the ship)s control s!stems and pump in
enough power to activate the lock mechanism. 1ut it came as no surprise to
discover the electrical rela! was fused be!ond use. The hatch lock would have to
be lasered through.
7ven with its violet spot held still the laser failed to make an! impact, as if it
were no more that a presentation pointer. He felt ridiculous for being so sure of
its effectiveness. /et curious – such imperviousness – for human technolog!.
(urel! the! weren)t anticipating the risk of an alien invasion3
+n a final act of frustration $orandi fixed a micronuke over the hatch lock
area, and then retreated b! about a hundred metres.
At first he thought the explosive had failed after the timer on his suit reached
&ero. Then after another twent! seconds the hatch blew awa!, but it was like
watching a slowmo repla!. The temporal anomal! must be concentrated around
the ship, !et his sensors were telling him nothing, as if the ship were in normal
space.
He exited the outersuit – tethering it to the nearest grapple loop – leaving a
standard 7:A suit, allowing him to easil! enter the hatch.
Once be!ond the airlock, the view inside was pitch black, indicating that
there was not even reserve power remaining. There was alwa!s the possibilit!
that something, or rather one of the aliens, had infiltrated the ship and killed the
passengers. (till, rather than use infrared or echo location $orandi opted for a
simple wide beam spotlight. +f there was an!thing;an!one aboard it would surel!
alread! know of his presence, and his fate was probabl! sealed in an! case. At
least he could see the interior in stark detail.
He reached a control panel near the flight%deck door, which was alread!
opened, told the suit to make a remote power%assisted interface. 'ow at least that
would gain the attention of an! intruder. 1ut $orandi knew he was stalling,
putting off the inevitable moment when he would discover the fate of the
passengers.
+n the meantime the interface console was telling him all s!stems were at
&ero power. Once the console gained enough charge it gave him some more
detail <ast power input =>?,@A5 hours ago. That was about twent!%five !earsB
Time inside seem to exist in its own bubble.
I’m too late. /et, until he saw time being unravelled, he)d clung to the vague
hope – thoughts of how he would save those passengers, return to a hero)s
welcome.
$orandi felt the panic rise within his stomach, becoming a bile in his throat.
He desperatel! wanted to remove his helmet, but then he would die within
seconds. His own air was due to run out in about thirt! hours. +t was not
something he)d even thought about before. 1ut he couldn)t risk connecting his
power packs at this stage.
Got to move on.
On the floor of the corridor was an 7:A suit, what had clearl! been the last
reserve for one of the passengers. $orandi leant down so that the full beam
illuminated its bubble helmet. There was no one inside. A sharp exhalation of
breath followed. Then $orandi continued on to the main passenger deck,
sweeping his light over the luxuriant chairs and couches the epitome of human
extravagance, although this was the pride of 7arth)s space endeavours.
Two more vacuum suits about three metres apart on the blue carpeted floor.
1ut again neither of them were occupied.
$orandi looked about for a few more minutes through the other rooms until
he was satisfied the passengers were no longer there.
"ost ships, even a moderatel! si&ed one such as this, have some kind of
escape pod* !et his searches revealed no evidence of an!. And even if the! had
escaped it seemed a futile act of survival.
7ventuall!, when his suit was becoming unbearabl! claustrophobic, he
decided to connect up one of his power packs. The interface console did not
accept such high level input. +nstead the! had to be connected in the
maintenance ba! below the flight deck.
Cower restored after a shak! start bright white overhead lights came on,
da&&ling at first – the stark restoration of a sudden return to life. This should
create enough power for not onl! all environmental s!stems but all secondar!
including a limited engine thrust, depending on the level of damage.
7ven before he went back up to the flight deck, $orandi got out of his suit.
-or the first few seconds all his fear and apprehension vanished, onl! relief at
this sense of freedom. +t was #ust a ritual that reminded him of some faint
memor! of having returned to safet!.
Then logic kicked back in.
The flight deck)s control panel appeared damaged be!ond use, but he found a
portable unit that b!passed ever! other interface. He considered tr!ing to
manoeuvre the ship to see if it could shake off this strange temporal field.
Cointless at best, he realised. 7quall!, activating a distress beacon would onl!
advertise his presence to the aliens, perhaps viewing him merel! as the leftover
detritus to clean up the onl! sentient being to survive the wave. /et a more
sinister alternative presented itself. He was unique in having gone through
temporal erasure, the onl! 1)tari out of his time – living it twice. (urel! he was
of value to the 7lusivers, a curiosit! to be studied3
+f the aliens have enough control of this ship to keep it isolated from the
surrounding universe then the! had control over him. Cerhaps observing him,
deciding the fate of the last remaining b)tari.
$orandi collapsed to the ground. The standb! bleeping of the portable unit
taunting him.
All those efforts to prevent them, failed?
He considered the true nature of his motives. How much was it reall! about
rescuing those humans3