Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
Cephei A and Cephei B are eclipsing binary stars that are located approximately 3,000 light years from Earth. Cephei A is a supergiant that is currently the second largest star in the Milky Way Galaxy. It is so large that if it replaced Earth’s sun, its chromosphere would extend almost to the orbit of Saturn. Cephei B is no pipsqueak either. It is over ten times as massive as our sun, and over 100,000 times as luminous. Both stars have extremely elongated orbits that cause them to practically touch each other every twenty years as they whip around their celestial center of mass. During the close approach, the overpowering gravity wells of these two massive supergiants forms a localized space-time distortion between them. This previously unknown phenomenon is called a temporal vortex.
Twenty years earlier, during the previous close approach, Francisco Fontaneda discovered that the temporal vortex was not just a portal through time, as predicted by other scientists, but was actually the astrophysical equivalent to Ponce de León’s “Fountain of Youth.” His analysis of the Quantum-mechanical entanglement data collected during the brief formation of the vortex revealed that if a body passed through the vortex at the instant of closest approach, the body’s physiology would change by twenty years. In other words, it wouldn’t physically travel back in time, but it would emerge on the other side of the vortex 20 years younger. To his chagrin, this hypothesis was greeted with skepticism and ridicule by the scientific community. Unfortunately, his chance at vindication had to wait for the next transit, which wouldn’t occur for another twenty years.
Francisco Fontaneda sat in his spaceship meticulously going down the pre-flight checklist one item at a time. Fontaneda had spent the last ten years building his ship from scratch, making sure to only use parts that were at least twenty years old. He wanted to make certain that if his ship got younger too, the parts would have existed twenty years earlier; otherwise they might simply vanish. He was even wearing a thirty year old flightsuit. After all, he didn’t want the press to photograph him climbing out of his ship completely naked. Of course, that wouldn’t have been too bad, since he’d be a trim thirty year old, rather than his current flabby half century.
At the designated time, he fired his aft thrusters. The ship climbed above the A-B plane of the two supergiants, and began its slow parabolic plunge toward the coordinates where the 100 meter wide vortex would appear at the instant of closest approach. His timing was perfect. A swirling whirlpool of light and degenerate matter began to form a few hundred kilometers in front of the ship as he accelerated downward. Fontaneda held his breath as he entered, then exited, the temporal vortex. Momentarily blinded by the intense brightness, he fumbled for his communications equipment to contact his support ship. “Calling the SS Bimini. This is Fontaneda. Do you read me? Did I make it?” He tried to focus on the monitor as his vision slowly returned.
“Roger that, Fontaneda,” said the captain of the Bimini. “Direct hit. How do you fee…? Whoa. What the hell happened to you? Your face…”
Fontaneda saw the captain’s broad smile morph into a grimace. “What’s the matter, Peter?” asked Fontaneda. “Haven’t you seen a handsome young man before?” He pulled out the mirror he had stowed in his flight bag. “Oh shit,” he said, as he looked at the reflection of the horrified seventy year old man staring back at him.