Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
A grey horizon arcs cleanly against a backdrop of pristine stars.
“Well I’ll be damned. It worked!”
I look back at Arty. He’s already halfway into his suit.
“After so little time cooped up, I need to get outside.”
“Are the comms still down?”
Arty reaches back and brings up the display.
“Lets both EVA and check the hull for damage. There’s a loose wire somewhere.”
“Good excuse to go out. I like it.”
Outside, the view is even better. Absolutely breathtaking.
He sounds odd.
I walk round to the other side of our lander.
Arty points towards the Moon hanging about a quarter-orbit away.
“Is that what I think it is?”
I look down at the dust about my feet, then run my gaze slowly out past the legs of the lander, all the way to the horizon and the curve of Earth.
“Some sort of optical illusion. Let’s go over the hull, then get back in and investigate.”
I don’t mention Earth is also in the wrong place. This has got to be some unforeseen visual anomaly.
Nine hours later we’ve confirmed all the wrong things.
“Sum it up for us, Arty.”
“We arrived on the surface of the moon using a prototype chronophasic transition drive, which effectively removes transit time by exploiting obscure interactions between uncertainty and other quantum effects using an application of Navascués manipulations. Some say it wouldn’t work if both ends of the journey hadn’t already been physically visited in real time, but as I don’t understand the basics, let alone the finer points, I can’t comment. Anyway, we got here near-instantaneously. During the few seconds of grey-out we experienced, we recall only strange sounds. I heard discordant music. You heard incomprehensible voices.
“Upon investigation, we found a second moon in the sky, and Earth moving away from us. Measurements indicate this second moon is in proper relation to Earth. It is we who are out of place.”
I raise a hand.
“No. I think we’re out of time. We’re exactly where the moon was at the moment we made this trip, and we’re now caught in an artificially generated reality. Trapped in a moment now past for everyone on Earth. Possibly everything else as well.”
Arty looks at me.
“You saying we’re stuck here?”
“Maybe, maybe not. My guess is the only way to prove it is to shut down the chronophasic drive. We’ll either snap back to where we were, cease to exist as this reality collapses, or end up marooned -which I think it the least likely outcome.”
“Slightly insane, but I can’t disagree. So, what’s your vote?”
“Wait until we’re nearly out of supplies. If no rescue mission arrives, we shut down the drive. In the meanwhile, we record and document everything.”
“Good enough to call a plan. Let’s do it.”
Four days later the life support fails.
Arty looks at me, his gloved hand over the red-flashing panel.
“About the result? No. About having to do it? Yes.”
“Okay. Five, four, three, two, one.”
His palm comes down on the panel.
“There has been a huge explosion at the NASA site near Cocoa Beach in Florida. Early indications are that the site has been completely destroyed. Cocoa Beach itself has suffered considerable damage.
“This catastrophic event comes right after we received reports of an unspecified incident during the launch of Chronos One, barely an hour ago.
“We’ll be back with updates as soon as we have them.”