Author : Bob Newbell

I’m gonna make it, I think to myself as my ship streaks past the Asteroid Belt. Only a few small colonies in the outer solar system. Soon I’ll be safely in the Oort Cloud. It’s a good place to lay low until the heat’s off. Probably need to hang out there for a couple of standard years.

I look back at my cargo. Quark matter. The sample I acquired is no larger in volume than a human cell yet it masses nearly 1,000 kilograms. In an era when everyone has a matter compiler, the theft of material objects is a rare and basically unnecessary crime. Quark matter is an exception. The microscopic quantity I obtained is worth half-a-trillion credits.

An alarm sounds. Proximity sensor. I am being pursued. Martian Republic police, most likely. I’ve planned for this eventually. I put a lot of money into outfitting my ship with a custom-built quantum impeller drive. I smile and tap a few controls. The pursuing ship recedes behind me. Thirty seconds later, the other ship is once again gaining on me. Not MR police, then. Their ships aren’t this fast. A Solar Alliance cruiser? I increase speed.

Another alarm. Time dilation alert. Quantum impulsion drive is kind of like the “warp drive” in ancient science fiction. Your ship is surrounded by a bubble of spacetime and it’s the bubble, not your ship per se, that moves through space. As a result, you don’t feel any acceleration. But QI drive can’t shield your ship — or you — from the relativistic effects of time dilation. I’m at 25 percent of the speed of light. At that speed, for every minute that passes for a relatively stationary observer, only 58 seconds pass for me. By virtue of my velocity, I’m moving more slowly through time.

The other ship starts closing in on me. Definitely Solar Alliance. He must have been in orbit around Mars to have caught up to me this quickly. The SA are famous for their unwavering persistence when chasing a suspect. I’m afraid this particular officer will have to remember me as the one that got away. I push my ship faster. As I pass 0.867c the time dilation readout moves to 2.00679. Time is passing twice as fast in the outside universe as it is in my quantum impulse field. Again, the police ship momentarily falls behind but quickly catches up and starts closing in again.

It’s time to put an end to this game of cat and mouse. I set my ship to continuous acceleration. At 0.999c my time dilation readout stands at 22.36627. For every minute that passes back at the research facility on Mars from which I stole my cargo, only 2.682 seconds pass within my ship. Impossibly, my pursuer is managing to keep up with me.

At 0.999999999935c, more than a day passes outside my ship for every tick of the second hand inside it. And still the cop is after me. My ship begins to shudder violently. I keep pushing the speed. The ship’s velocity maxes out at 0.999999999999999998c. After a subjective minute of travel at that speed, over 1,000 years have passed on the outside. Would my cargo be of any value to anyone now even if I managed to make a getaway? Does humanity as I knew it even still exist?

In the moments before my ship disintegrates around me, my sensor display shows the pursuing ship is also coming apart. What justice did he hope to achieve after this long? Did he leave behind a family? Why did he do it?

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