Author : Patrica Stewart, Staff Writer

“It’s not a great analogy, Professor, but think of it this way,” explained the chronotechnician, “time flows like a river. Something we call a ‘world line,’ which is the sequential path of an object through space-time. I can select any object, say you, and follow your ‘world line’ back through time, and project the image on the Chronoloviewer screen. Would you like a demonstration?”

“Absolutely. Show me what I was doing yesterday, at exactly this time.”

The chronotechnician spent five minutes entering the appropriate data into the control panel, and then activated the Chronoloviewer. Although there was some noise in the image, the Professor saw himself at the lectern in front of his 10:00 Paleontology class. The notes on the computer screen at the front of the class were clearly from yesterday’s lecture. “Wow, that’s incredible. Do you have sound?”

“Sorry, Professor, not yet. Would you like to go further back? Maybe see if O. J. killed Nicole?”

“Hardly necessary,” he replied with a trace of disgust. “Can you go back 65 million years, to the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction, and show me what killed the dinosaurs?”

“Huh, I guess so. I believe I can follow Earth’s world line.” This time the data entry took about an hour, and the image was slightly noisier, but the dinosaurs on the screen revealed they were viewing the correct time. However, the scene was right out of a sci-fi B movie. Streamlined aircraft, firing energy weapons, were hunting the dinosaurs. The forests were being set ablaze, and all the animals were being driven into large nets and transported up to gigantic hovering saucers. The Professor didn’t know what to make of these images. Why were space aliens hunting the dinosaurs? Was it for food, or sport? Did the aliens cause the mass extinctions? Maybe the Chicxulub impact was a big coincidence, and had nothing to do with the actual extinction of the dinosaurs. The fires the aliens were setting could explain some of the contradictory soot evidence found by Paleontologists. “Quick,” he said, “go to the Triassic mass extinction, around 195 million years ago.”

It was the same scene, although the ships were visibly more primitive. But this time the aliens were using pulsating energy beams from orbiting space ships, concentrating most of their firepower in the centerline of Pangaea. The continent seemed to split in half as horrific lava flows were driving the animals toward large metal cages. Shuttlecraft were ferrying the trapped animals into space. The Professor realized that the lava trench could be the start of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. And, there was archeological evidence of extreme lava flows coincident with the Triassic mass extinction. This was extraordinary!

Over the next six hours, they viewed the Permian-Triassic extinction, the Late Devonian extinction, and the Ordovician-Silurian extinction. The scenarios were always the same; alien spaceships harvesting Earth’s animal population. “Nobody will believe this,” mumbled the Professor.

“Ah, sir, I don’t want to be an alarmist,” said the chronotechnician, “but this could be very bad news for us. I’ve done some quick back-of-the-envelope calculations; if you divide the dates of these mass extinctions by 32.5 million years, you get whole numbers: 2, 6, 8, 11, and 13. It’s like these aliens live on a planet or space station that approaches our solar system every 32.5 million years. I’ll bet there were minor-extinctions in between the major ones, say at 32.5, 98.5, 130, or 162.5 million years ago. If I’m right, it’s been 32.5 million years since their last visit. The hunting parties are due back at any time.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows