Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Around the Wheel

NOTE: The flash fiction story below I wrote for a contest. I didn't win, but it relates to an earlier blog post I called The Wheel in the Heart of the Universe, a story idea I advanced some time ago based on Stephen Hawking's description in A Brief History of Time of a realistic time machine using worm holes. Hope you enjoy my little paradox and I hope it inspires potential writers out there to do similar stories that feature time travel through worm holes:

The spinning wheel was enormous, 6,000 light years across, far too large for all of it to be seen. Jax Sorens turned left to look at Dr. Ono. The starship Jax piloted, the White Hand, hovered 200 light years away from the center of this rotating behemoth.

“It really is what we thought,” whispered the doctor in awe. “Over 3,000 years ago an ancient alien civilization constructed a set of spinning wormholes, laid out in a gigantic rotating disk. The outer end of the holes travel near light speed, so time is slowed down there. But at the center, time moves at a normal rate, faster than the arms. Taking the starship through the center out to one of the arms will literally move us back in time.”

“What amazes me is you got us all the way out here into the deep dark of intergalactic space,” said Jax.

“Oh that was nothing. Just a little industrial application of negative energy density.”

“Yeah right.” Jax rolled his eyes around the cramped cockpit. The White Hand was tiny compared to most interstellar craft. It had been designed just for this mission and only held the two of them along with numerous touchscreens and plugs for direct brain input. They'd carried with them a large supply of wormhole casters, a supply over half depleted now. They'd left a vast string of them trailing behind, leading all the way back to the Milky Way galaxy. They could make a jump from where they were to the center of the spinning wormhole time machine, then the remaining casters in the cargo hold would get them back on the return trip to the Milky Way, only this time thousands of years in the past.

One of the screens flashed red. Jax said what both of them were thinking. “Is that an incoming com?”

“Could that be…the aliens? Didn’t the sensors show no sign of recent occupation?”

“Dunno who, doc. Let me check.”

A second panel flashed. Doctor Ono tapped the screen, eyes wide. “We have a vessel decelerating from near-light speed headed our way.”

“Ooo, crap, I’m powering up the weapons!”

“Perhaps you should check the com first?”

“Or simultaneously. I’m on it.”

A very familiar voice sounded through the now-activated panel. “White Hand, this is Dr. Ito Ono. Do not jump to the time machine. I say again, do not jump to the center of the alien device!”

Jax glanced to his side to ensure the doctor was still with him. He was.

“Uh, Dr. Ono, you are right here beside me in the cabin...” His voice trailed off.

Now his own voice sounded. “We’re both here. The alien machine drained the negative energy in our casters. There was no way for us to make the trip back home in this earlier time frame. We’ve been travelling at near-light speed from one of the arms that let us out 3,200 years ago. Thanks to Mr. Einstein, only two years subjective time has passed for us.”

“I see…that explains why we didn’t find casters already strung out this way from our return trip, from thousands of years ago…” muttered the Ono still inside the White Hand. Or their version of the vessel, because Jax saw that the starship decelerating from the direction of the wormhole time machine was none other than the White Hand itself.

Dr. Ono’s voice repeated over the radio. “I say again, do not jump to the alien device. The ship will drain its total energy reserves on our near-light speed emergency burn to return to warn you. This vessel cannot return back to the Milky Way. If you do not make the leap at all, you will have enough energy to get back.”

The doctor in the cockpit of their vessel scratched his chin. “But if we don’t make the jump, how will we be able to warn ourselves not to go?”

Jax's eyes widened. “But if we make the jump and warn ourselves, we won’t have enough fuel.”

“We could switch vessels I suppose, jump the spent one to the machine and let the other two take ours back.”

“But then we STILL wouldn’t be warning ourselves.”

“We could send a radio message once we get there.”

“But then we still won’t be here to go back!”

Dr. Ono scratched his chin and frowned.