Caught Somewhere In Time – Chapter 10
Location: LunaBase, Luna, Earth Orbit
Local Date: Friday, November 17, 2220
Cole tried to think of how to make all of this clear to her. Most people in his project already had a better understanding of how this kind of thing works…
His project. He couldn’t even think about it without it bothering him. This felt like a nightmare for him, this not knowing. He was determined to change that. Cole felt badly that he might be dragging Val down with him; he liked her. She came across as impulsive and a little naïve sometimes, but nice. She risked her neck for him, and they could easily be caught and get into a lot of trouble. Probably more than she knew. He hoped to test the effects of humans actively travelling into the past prior to sending Val on her larger mission, but that never happened. In a way, Cole continued his life’s work still, only he did so illegally now.
“You think it was this ship? You think it was me? I’m starting to think this wasn’t such a good idea, Cole!” Val began to freak out just a little bit.
Cole knew he would have to explain this to her better to calm her down, but wanted to do it once they were in the past. He found himself a little concerned already that Novikov’s effect even allowed future-Val to approach present-Val so closely that she appeared in her rear display like that. He couldn’t have her changing her mind now and trying to find her other self. Being a pilot, one of the best according to her record, she was well trained in how to handle a job under pressure. And pressure was the only thing Cole had working for him right now. “We need to get into the past, immediately. We will be safer there. If someone saw us leaving the bay, they could look for us in this time. Once we go into the past, then local time will be before we stole the ship, so no one will be looking for us yet. Let’s get moving, and I’ll explain it all once we are safely in the past.”
Cole stood up and moved beside her, ready to help her work the time controls. Val looked him in the face with her beautiful green eyes on fire. She said, “I can fly anything, anywhere, at anytime. I always enjoy good company in the process though. Copilot me?”
“Sure.” He reached into her display, knowing he would be unable to affect anything in the hologram. He wanted to make sure she understood, but couldn’t afford a long lesson. Hopefully she would be able to figure it out on the fly. “This over here, you will recognize as your vector display. There are short white lines showing this ship on the x-, y-, and z-axis in space. It will display a red line that shows the quickest space-route to your destination once you input one. It will also display a blue line that shows the quickest time-route to your destination. If we are travelling in normal time, like a normal ship, our vector line will usually be violet, with the fastest route being the same in space and time. This is the first ship that allows the separation of the two headings however, lending two different lines.” The readout was very minimal, with just a small white orb with the axis sticking out of it representing the ship. With no destination given yet, no other paths looked available.
“We need to head to back to LunaBase then, so you can do your digging around. I assume I put in the space route to there,” she spoke as she selected LunaBase in the vector display as the destination. A violet line appeared down from the representation of the ship in the vector display, showing her that she needed to angle the ship down to return to the surface.
“That’s right. See how the line is violet? That’s because the default is to use this ship in normal time. It will never assume that you are going to change times; you have to be deliberate about that.” He motioned down below the space-heading to show Val where to select the time-heading. “These are three displays showing time and date. The first one is the constant, and so is not changeable. It tells you the date as if this ship had never travelled through time at all, so it can be used as a base measurement. The second shows the current local time, and it changes automatically to show when the vessel resides currently. This can be compared to the constant to show how different this is from where the ship would be without travelling at all.”
“I get it. So the third display must be where we adjust for our destination time, right?”
It certainly made things easier that she took direction well. “Roll it back about four hours so I will have enough time to do my research into why I was fired.” As she rolled it back, the blue vector line separated slightly from the red line, curving and becoming longer than the red one. “See what happened? When you changed the clock, the time vector showed where LunaBase was four hours ago. Both lines point us to LunaBase, the red one in local time if we just flew there, and the blue one according to the time you gave it. The moon is in motion around Earth, just as Earth is in motion around the sun, and the sun in motion around the galactic center, and etcetera. The blue line will arc to find the location over time relative to where and when we are currently. If you were going to LunaBase and changing time two weeks, the blue line would send you around to the other side of Earth in the moon’s orbit. If you changed time to six months ago, Earth would be on the other side of the sun in its orbit.”
“With normal flight, the vector only shows where I should fly; it doesn’t do the flying for me unless it’s put into autopilot. Does the time function work the same?” seemed to be asking all the right questions.
“That part is different. We are still new to time travel, and we hope someday to move manually through time, but for now, time is handled by autopilot only. You will still have the ability to move the ship through space as time changes around you, to avoid possible collision with objects flying through our path, but your piloting skills need to be top notch to accomplish this. Once time starts moving in autopilot, you will have to follow the blue vector display as closely as you can, and the red will gradually join it as the local time changes around us. As time changes on longer trips, there will planets moving in strange directions, comets and asteroids will move past very quickly if there are any in your path. You may need to stray from the blue vector to avoid something catastrophic, but as you change direction, the vectors will change as well.”
“Wait, why would they change?”
“The autopilot moves us through time proportional to how close we get to our physical destination. I guess the short explanation is that when we travel through time and space simultaneously, we will always arrive at both the destination time and destination location simultaneously. The autopilot adjusts our time-dilation to match the distance to our destination.” Cole was itching to get moving.
“OK, I’m ready. Let’s get out of here before someone spots us. Locking in the space, and locking in the time.” She flicked the holographic switches and the display turned red, then violet. “You might want to buckle back into your seat, Cole.”
He didn’t think the trip would be bumpy, but didn’t want to risk it, so did as she asked. As Val began to accelerate the ship, the display around her head shifted rapidly. She followed the blue vector perfectly, causing its display and the red vector’s display to zip themselves closed at the point where the ship flew. The moon ahead of her in the display seemed to approach at a normal rate. A couple of ships in her display flew backward around her as Cole and Val zipped through time nearby to them. Since the time vessel moved backward through time, these other ships seemed to move backward from this perspective, staying in their normal time.
As they neared the base, Val reached up and turned the destination inputs off, moving them into the normal flow of time again. Cole spoke up when he saw where she aimed the ship. “We can’t fly down into the private hangar! This ship is already in there. We are in the past now, remember? Go to a public dock and follow someone else in, a big passenger ship would be best, so we can hide behind them and I can join the crowd heading into the base.”
Val circled around the base looking for incoming ships. They found one right away and snuck right in behind it, following close enough to make Cole nervous. Val seemed to be confident though as they landed only about two feet behind it. While they waited for the passengers to begin leaving the passenger ship, Cole got up and went over to her again.
“Remember, we are going to steal this ship in about four hours. You need to be there, outside the private dock when that happens so you can return the ship. Hopefully, no one will notice that it’s missing at all. You need to stay hidden until that happens. Don’t let anyone see you!”
“Can’t I just fly to that point in time right now?” Val asked.
“No! Absolutely not! There are too many variables involved, and you need more training on paradox first.”
“The passengers are starting to file out of the shuttle. You better get out there if you are going to join the group.”
Cole looked into her eyes, and she met his gaze. “Stay out of trouble Val. I don’t want you getting yourself caught.”
“All I have to do is wait around for a few hours, land inconspicuously, and get back into the lab. There’s no way I’ll get caught. You’re the one that needs to watch yourself.” She smiled at him, and he started to feel a little warm.
Cole leaned forward toward her face, immersing his head in her holographic display. She didn’t move, but her eyes darted down to his mouth, and then back up to meet his again. She continued smiling. Cole kissed Val lightly on the forehead, and then pulled away.
“For luck?” she asked.
“Something like that,” he replied. “I need to go.”
As he walked away from Val’s apartment, having instructed her to meet him in the café, where she would steal the ship with him, he realized that maybe no paradox occurred here after all. Sure he had been the cause for his own firing, and the reason that Val came to help him, but no paradox happened in the traditional sense because nothing changed for him. He remembered getting fired, and he remembered Val approaching him in the café, so even though a circular series of events occurred, nothing changed. His past already happened, even if it was because of his future.
A word came to his mind as he walked into the lab: destiny. What happened to him had been his destiny, no other explanation fit, or at least none that Cole could conceive of. He had always been destined to make this loop, because otherwise it wouldn’t have happened. It all seemed like conscious choices at the time, not a guide in place, but here he was, at the end of a long loop he put into motion only moments ago.
Cole sat at a terminal, looking over his latest work for any flaws. He had become so absorbed in it, that he almost missed watching the time ship being hijacked from the hangar. The terminal displayed it rising up out of the hangar, and a moment later, settling back down into its place. When the hangar door closed, he entered the bay and hopped down the steps to greet Val. She slipped out from under the ship, trying to be sneaky and seemed surprised to see him standing there.
“Do you have any idea how boring it is to sit in a ship for four hours, parked?” she asked.
Cole just chuckled and replied with another question. “Was that you outside your apartment window?”