Condemned to Repeat History

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

Shortly after 13:30 on 11 April 2112, the HMTS Temporal Voyager left Roches Point in Ireland. Its mission: to resolve some unanswered questions concerning the sinking of the RMS Titanic.

“Time flows like a river,” lectured Dr. Cassandra Simon to her lone passenger, Dexter Hollenbach, a reporter for London’s Daily Holograph. “You just can’t sit in the lab and say ‘I want to witness Abraham Lincoln’s assassination’. You have to set up the Temporalgraph within a few kilometers of Ford’s Theater. Even closer if you want to pick up audio. That’s why we need to start this temporal journey at Roches Point, it’s the last time that we knew the exact location of the Titanic.” The large monitor above the control panel showed an image of the Titanic weighing anchor on its way to the North Atlantic. “You see,” continued Simon, “despite the fact that there are 200 years separating us, if we can maintain identical spatial coordinates as the Titanic, the Temporalgraph can stay focused on her as she sails east. A sort of cat and mouse trek through time.”

“But you said we could hear conversations on the bridge,” noted Hollenbach. “That image is hundreds of meters above the funnels.”

“True,” conceded Simon. “That’s because navigation is being controlled by the computer, for now. It’s programmed to keep us close enough that we won’t lose the time-stream. When we get nearer the collision event, I’ll transfer navigation to my control so we can sync-up spatially. It takes intense concentration, so I don’t want to have to do it too long. Be patient Mister Hollenbach, you’ll get your story.


The chronometer read 23:25, 14 April 2112. “We’re ready, Mr. Hollenbach,” announced Simon. She reached across the navigation panel and pressed the manual override button. “Okay,” she said, “I have control. Now, let’s get onto the bridge.” As Simon simultaneously fine-tuned the navigation and temporalgraph controls, the image on the monitor zoomed downward past the forward funnel and penetrated into the bridge.

Captain Smith confronted his first officer, “Will, I say it’s too dangerous. Bring her to a complete stop. You can set the trans-Atlantic speed record next trip, when you’re in charge.”

“But Captain,” protested Murdoch, “the Titanic is unsinkable. Think of your reputation. The world is watching us.”

“Why is Murdoch pushing so hard?” asked Hollenbach.

“The 1912 Disaster Hearings discovered that Murdoch had bet 20,000 pounds that the Titanic would set the trans-Atlantic speed record on her maiden voyage,” replied Simon. “That was a fortune back then. But nobody thought he’d risk the safety of the ship over it.”

Captain Smith stood his ground. “I won’t risk the lives of…”

“Has old age softened you that much, Edward?” retorted Murdoch as he saw his life savings disappearing. “Or are you just a damn yellow bellied coward.”

“I am not a coward, and I won’t be mocked by the likes of you. I’m in command…”

“Save your excuses, Captain Smith. It’s probably better that King George knight me for bringing glory to the Kingdom, than some tired old man whose time has long passed.” Murdoch turned and left the bridge, shaking his head in disgust.

Captain Smith pondered Murdoch’s words for a minute, and then turned to his chief officer, “Full speed ahead, Mister Tingle.”

“That’s unbelievable,” said the astonished Simon. “Are all men that egotistical? Are they so wrapped up in their self-centered lives that they’re willing to risk…” Simon’s tirade was cut short when the HMTS Temporal Voyager slammed into an iceberg and sank within seconds.

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Be Careful What you Ask For

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

“It was one hundred years ago today, on April 6, 1992,” stated Joshua Noyle, “that one of the greatest minds in the history of mankind passed away.”

“And who might that be?” inquired Tom Vittna, although to be honest, he didn’t really care.

“Isaac Asimov, of course,” was the matter-of-fact reply. “And today, I will continue the legacy of his favorite story, The Last Question.”

“Is that why you dragged me out here to the edge of the solar system, to pay homage to some long dead science fiction writer?”

Annoyed, Noyle raised his hand and began ticking off his rebuttal. “One, he was much more than a science fiction writer. Two, that story encompasses the essence of universe, the ebb and flow of time, the very…”

“Okay, okay, I yield. What’s the plan?”

“I plan to decrease entropy in a closed system.”

“What, reverse entropy? Violate the second law of thermodynamics. That’s impossible. Damn you Joshua, if I knew you were bringing me out here for such a lame brained scheme, I would have…”

“I can do it, Tom. I just need you to stay on the ship and watch my back. If the experiment goes awry, I need you to shut it down remotely.”

“Whoa, what experiment?”

“I’m going to take the Entropy Reverser with me in the shuttlecraft and establish a reverse entropy bubble around it. I’m not sure what will happen on the inside, so I need you to collapse the bubble by throwing this switch five minutes after I start the experiment.”

At this point, Vittna was more concerned about his friend’s sanity than anything else. Better humor him for now, he thought, and figure out how to get to the medical cabinet for the hypo sedative without raising suspicion. “Alright, Joshua, I’ll stand by the switch. But tell me what you expect to happen, er, inside the bubble?”

“Well, I’m not exactly sure,” Noyle replied. “In many respects, entropy is a measure of the direction of time. As time moves forward, entropy is always increasing. I suppose that when I reverse entropy, time will move backward. I’m taking an atomic clock with me to measure the effect.”

“Is it safe?” inquired Vittna as he meandered toward the storage closet. As Noyle began answering, he ducked onto the closet. He found the sedative and returned to the bridge, but Noyle was already gone. Looking out the forward viewport, he spotted the shuttlecraft moving away at maximum speed.

When Noyle was far enough away from the mothership, he primed the Entropy Reverser. A few seconds later, three green lights flashed across the control panel. Smiling, Noyle activated the Reverser. Instantly, he regretted it. He tried desperately to inhale, but the cabin air refused to fill the partial vacuum within his lungs. Millions of chemical reactions within his body no longer sought to lower their free energy, but to increase it. The fluids in his body froze solid. He died an agonizing, but rapid, death. The bubble began strengthening exponentially. It reached out beyond the fundamental force of electromagnetism, and began reversing the nuclear forces, and finally, gravitation.

Back on the mothership, Vittna watched as the shuttlecraft collapsed in a flash of blinding light, followed by the explosion of space itself. In a millionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, the cosmological inflation consumed his ship and raced outward in all directions. In a few minutes, the new expanding universe would be cool enough to begin nucleosynthesis.


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The Fine Print

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

The Judge yawned as he seated himself at the bench. “What are we doing here, Mike?” he asked the bailiff.

“Your Honor, we are hearing the civil case of ‘Captain Taylor versus Solar System Transportation, Inc.’, a dispute over wages due for a cargo run from Earth Station Tango to Alpha Centauri base.”

“Fine,” replied the Judge as he turned to address the plaintiff. “What’s your claim, son?”

“Your Honor, I left Earth in 2248. It was SST’s first interstellar commercial payload, and because of the hardships, they agreed to pay me a bonus of 100,000 credits per year. I returned eleven years later, in 2259. Therefore, they owe me an extra 1,100,000 credits.”

“Sounds straightforward,” noted the Judge. “So,” he continued as he addressed the defendant, “why haven’t you paid the man?”

“Simple relativity, Your Honor. Due to time dilation during the 0.95c portion of the trip, Captain Taylor only aged three years. Therefore, we are only obligated to pay him an extra 300,000 credits.”

Damn, thought the Judge to himself, time dilation makes my head ache. Why can’t these lawyers foresee these types of issues and make provisions up front. All this ambiguity was begging for litigation. “Okay,” he lamented, “let me see the contract. Court is adjourned until this time tomorrow.”

The following day, the Judge resumed his position at the bench. Without preamble, he announced, “I find for the plaintiff. However, the award will not be 1.1 million credits. It seems that in section 102, paragraph 22, the contract stipulated the adherence to the Space Transportation Act of 2203. Apparently, it’s one of the older Acts written to protect non-union pilots from disreputable transportation companies. It states that pilots must be compensated 60 credits per shift hour, or 0.2 credits per Earth diameter traveled, whichever is higher. Therefore, at the hourly rate, the six month, or 1244 shift hours, round trip to Titan would pay 74,640 credits. On the other hand, based on the distance traveled rate, the 1.486 billion miles round trip would pay only 37,480 credits. For decades, the hourly rate was the only one that mattered, since the spaceships of the era traveled so slowly. However, when star ships were developed, no one at SST thought about updating the terms of their standard contract.” The Judge grinned as he looked the CEO of Solar System Transportation, Inc. and his panel of high paid attorneys. “You see where this is going, I suppose?”

The CEO became pale and his eyes rolled upward as he fainted, toppling over his chair.

“Ah, I see you do,” remarked the Judge with a smile. “At the rate of 0.2 credits per Earth diameter traveled, I rule for the plaintiff the sum of 1.32 billion credits for the 52.5 trillion mile round trip to Alpha Centauri. ”


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Orbital Decay

Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

The maintenance spacecraft pulled alongside Lunar Array II, located in selenocentric orbit approximately 500 miles above Crater Korolev on the far side of the moon. Lunar Array II was the second of six lunar satellites to be visited by the maintenance team during their fourteen day refurbishment mission.

After unloading the magneto-torqures, Henry Selkirk returned to the cargo hold and began uncrating the replacement gyroscopes. Suddenly, the spacecraft lurched heavily to the starboard side and broke free of its mooring lines. Through the open hatch, Selkirk could see the moon rotate out of view as the ship began an uncommanded barrel roll. Instinctively, he closed the cargo hatch and made his way to the cockpit. As he reached the cockpit, the onboard guidance system was valiantly trying to stabilize the spacecraft. He watched helpless for twenty minutes as the computer fired the port side attitude control thrusters, while intermittently compensating for changes in yaw and pitch. Finally, all vibration stopped. Selkirk repressurized the cockpit and removed his helmet to assess the damage. It was bad. The main fuel tanks read empty. There must have been a valve failure, or perhaps a meteoroid impact. Either way, he wasn’t going to be able to fly home. Calmly, he activated the ship’s diagnostic protocol and starred at the monitor as his fate revealed itself with terminal clarity. The ship was in a decaying orbit, spiraling toward an impact event with the lunar surface in less than six hours. A little over two orbits, he realized. He also knew that rescue was out of the question. It would take more than a day for a ship in Earth orbit to reach the moon.

He spent the next hour consulting with NASA, and racking his brain, for possible ways to extend his life by the necessary hours. But in the end, there were no viable solutions. The best he could do was to leave the ship in his EVA suit, and exhaust its propellant to gain altitude. But it would only extend his orbit by a few hours. And even if he could gain the necessary speed, it would be fruitless, because the suit only had a ten hour air supply. Eventually, he resigned himself to providence, and asked to be connected to a personal channel. He spent the next two hours saying good-bye to his wife, and an hour with each of his two children talking about what they would do when he got home. He and Amanda had agreed that it would be best to let them have a few more hours of joy before she would tell them that their father wasn’t coming home. Finally, thirty minutes with his parents, and five minutes telling his boss what an asshole he was. Content that his affairs were in order, he donned his helmet and abandoned ship.

As his suit’s thrusters sputtered the last of his fuel, he turned around to face the moon. In complete silence, he watched for hours as the lunar craters and mountains paraded beneath him. Halfway through his last orbit, he looked toward the Earth to watch it set behind the moon for the last time. The surface of the moon was approaching quickly now, flying by at more than 4000 miles an hour. Although he knew it was useless, he braced himself for the inevitable impact.

Back on Lunar Array II, Alex Pitman glanced at his air supply; only one hour remaining. With a suit-to ship radio too weak to contact home, he would die alone, and unable to say good-bye.


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Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

“I’m sorry to report Mr. Jones, that your suspicions were correct,” said the private detective that I had hired to follow my wife. “Delilah has been cheating on you.” He rotated his padd so that I could see the cascading slideshow of my wife rendezvousing with a handsome man at an internet café, followed by images of them entering a sleazy motel. “I also had a camera in their room,” he added, “but I don’t think you want to see those images.”

“No,” I replied. “I need to see them.”

Reluctantly, the detective called up another slideshow. As I watched the images of my naked wife and her lover flash by in agonizing clarity, I struggled to control my anger. “I gave her everything she could want,” I hissed. “How could she do this to me?”

“It gets worse,” the detective added.


“He’s not human. He’s an android.”

My mind exploded with rage. Sex with an android? She might as well have done it with a farm animal. “God, no,” I said aloud. “Only a sick, perverted person would have sex with an andro…” I couldn’t force myself to say the word.

“The laws are quite specific about this kind of activity, Mr. Jones. She can get up to twenty-five years under the current morality statutes. But I warn you, if you pursue that avenue, you will also be disgraced.”

“There’s no need to make this public,” I stated. “I’ll handle it myself.” I stood up and tossed an envelope onto his desk. I was confident that there was enough money in it to buy his silence. But I didn’t care about the consequences. I was so enraged that nothing mattered anymore. Well, nothing beyond the thought of staring into her repulsive, nauseating eyes as I strangled her with my bare hands.

I took the turbolift to the parking garage and climbed into my waiting limo. I instructed it to take me home. I didn’t try to talk myself out of killing her. I had already convinced myself that I had no choice. First, I would kill her, and then I would destroy it. Afterwards, I didn’t care what happened to me.

When I arrived home, I found Delilah in the kitchen. “Oh, you’re home early,” she said as she approached me for a hug. But she pulled up short. “What’s wrong, honey? You look upset.” She stood there with a genuine look of concern. Her crystal green eyes innocently blinking at me. She’s so lovely, I thought.

That’s when it suddenly dawned on me that maybe she didn’t know her lover was an android. Maybe she had been duped. “I know about your affair,” I blurted out. “Don’t deny it.”

Her expression of “concern” changed to a dismissive smile. “Oh, is that what you’re upset about. I can explain.”

“No! Don’t bother,” I snapped. “I just need to know if you knew that it was an android.”

She laughed. “Well, of course I knew, sweetheart. Honestly, you’re so naïve, it’s adorable.” And she continued to chuckle in the most mocking tone imaginable.

I snapped. I grabbed a knife from the counter top and drove it into her abdomen. The blade penetrated about an inch before snapping off at the handle. I looked down and saw a needle thin spray of pink liquid squirting from her stomach. I dropped the knife handle, and backed away. The room began to spin. I fought to steady myself. “What the hell,” I mumbled.

“Now, look at what you’ve done,” she protested. “You ruptured one of my hydraulic lines.”


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