Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

Astronaut Lazo Hora drove his rover down the sloping interior walls of the 3.6 billion year old Shackleton Crater near the moon’s South Pole. As his headlights probed into the perpetual night of the crater floor, he spotted a saucer-like object in the distance. Hora raced toward the object and confirmed his wildest expectations, it was artificial. But it looked ancient; its surface eroded with millions of micrometeorite impacts. He climbed out of the rover and upholstered his isotope-ratio mass spectrometer and touched its sensor onto the surface of the object. The results had to be wrong. According to the readout, the object was more that 16.3 billion years old; billions of years older than the known universe.

Hora walked around the object and discovered an apparent hatch. When he pushed against it, it swung open. Cautiously, he entered. Seconds later, lights, with no apparent source, illuminated the interior. Across the room he saw four spacesuited humanoid bodies laying side-by-side on the floor. Each one was wearing a Goddard-class spacesuit exactly like his own, except they weren’t wearing helmets. Their desiccated faces were unrecognizable. As he took a few steps toward the bodies, he let go of the hatch, and it slammed closed. When he turned to look back, he noticed two things: There was no apparent way to open the hatch from the inside, and there was a fifth spacesuited individual sitting Indian style next to the hatch. This fifth dead individual, who was still wearing a helmet, was holding his suit’s recorder/transmitter in his lap. The transmitter was attached to wires emanating from an access panel along the floor. Hora picked up the transmitter and pressed the play button. He was shocked to hear his own voice speaking through his earpiece.

“Hello, Lazo Hora Number 6,” the voice announced. “I’m Lazo Hora Number 5. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but when you entered this damnable time machine, you signed your own death warrant. But don’t sulk too long, my brother, for we don’t have the luxury. Listen closely, for you only have a few hours of oxygen left, and there are things you need to do if Lazo Hora Number 7 is to survive. Let me explain. When Lazo Hora Number 1 first entered this death trap exactly as we all did, he was transported back in time three billion years. It happens automatically. It happened to all of us, and it just happened to you. Lazo Number 1 died of hypoxia trying to translate the alien controls in a futile attempt to return to our time. He failed. Three billion years later, Lazo Number 2 entered this sarcophagus, and was also sent back three billions years. He wasted his time beating on the hatch. Lazo Number 3 tried a new approach. He felt that if he could destroy the power source for the time saucer, the next Lazo Hora wouldn’t trigger the transport when he entered in another three billion years. He concluded the source was behind the port wall, but he couldn’t break through before he died. Three billion years later, Lazo Number 4 wasted too much time figuring out what was going on, so he decided to use his time to tap into this ship’s infinite power supply to leave the next us a recorded message on the plan. We don’t have any tools, so we’ve been using the helmets of the previous Lazos as hammers. I almost made it through this time. I’m really sorry that I couldn’t save your life, but it’s your job to save Lazo Number 7. Please, take my helmet and break through that damn bulkhead and short out the power supply, and put an end to this Godforsaken loop.”

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