One of the things I love about world building is trying to construct a history around why something happened. How did The Foundation come to be? Well, I had to think that one out and build a history that made sense. Now, while you may not ever seen the whole history, I have, because I need to know the whys and wherefores and stick to those suckers.
Because if there’s another thing I’ve learned when writing, it’s that you need to stick to the internal logic of the story created by whatever history you have. Otherwise it’s all chaos, and we don’t want that, now, do we?
It was the same way when I wrote Transporting. I had to created a bunch of history to explain why things were the way they were at the time of my story. And one of the things I created was something of a quick summation of how humans went from an interplanetary to interstellar to time traveling species. And in little more than thirty-five hundred words I did just that.
This is Chapter Ten from Transporting, and this is the first time it’s ever seen the light of day. This is where my inner sci fi tech geek comes out and get all crazy with the handwavium so my world works. You get to see if first. And I do hope you enjoy.
If nothing else, if gives you another insight into how my mind works.
Which might not be a good thing…
(Excerpt from Transporting by Cassidy Frazee, Copyright 2018.)
Human-kind developed advanced propulsion systems for space travel in the early and mid-22nd Century. A 1G fusion drive developed by the ESA made its first full-system run in 2112 and began mass production ten years later. The Kranok Drive was rendered nearly obsolete when, in 2142, a Japanese/ Indonesian consortium developed a matter/anti-matter powered drive that could achieve accelerations of up to 10Gs and maintain that velocity for extended periods of time. The energy produced by the Masawana-Sukarno-Koh Drive also powered another consortium breakthrough: a device that would compensate for inertia and eliminate the gravitational effects produced by acceleration. With this in place, the MSK Drive could run at its maximum and passengers and crew would never feel anything more than a comfortable .9Gs enveloping them.
With these tools the Solar System was finally opened for business.
Now that people could move from planet to planet in days instead of weeks or months, the next five decades saw the first real outward rush of Terran society. Luna became a suburb of Earth. The population of Mars nearly doubled. Large habitats were built in orbit around Venus and Jupiter. A mining colony was established on Mercury. And scientific outposts sprang up on all the large outer moons.
Because of its efficiency and lower cost the Kranok Drive was not scraped, but was instead used by large, slower system freighters that didn’t need to zip from one place to another. However, it was soon discovered that the Kranok Drive was perfect for something else: the first generation of the unmanned interstellar probes. The first Rigil Kentaurus probe, Jupiter 3—the name was chosen as a homage to an early science fiction television program—departed Mars orbit in 2160 and arrived in-system eleven years later. Probes were built and sent to Barnard’s Star and Procyon in 2171 and 2174 respectively. Although Barnard’s Star proved to be a bit of a disappointment—only three small planets were found, along with a huge asteroid field waiting to be plundered—both Rigil Kent and Procyon were found to have planets that would be considered hospitable for humans after a little terraforming.
Now the biggest hurdle would be getting people there. While the MSK Drive could get a ship up close to the speed of light in a very short time, no one had yet discovered a way to go faster than light. While there were a number of theories as to how an FTL system might work, turning the might into would was proving elusive as hell. Between 2170 and 2200 no less that twelve billion Terran Scripts were spent on research looking for this Holy Grail of space flight. It all turned into dead-ends, however. Everything that had been written on the subject over the prior one hundred years was poured over by the greatest minds throughout most of 2202 in the hope that something had been missed, that perhaps someone had come up with an idea that, while brilliant, had been so astounding that the work was immediately discounted and discarded in the dust bin of history.
3 Jan, 2203, a paper was published detailing the findings of the team. Their findings: nothing of use was there. All that has been thought possible was, instead, proven impossible. Faster than light travel was an enigma. It was a fantasy dreamt only by those who could not face the harsh reality of nature; that if anyone wished to travel to the stars, it would be done in small steps taking so many yet-to-be counted generations, or at relativistic speeds that would, in effect, be one-way journeys for those aboard.
The paper summed up its conclusions nicely, leaving no doubt as to its conclusions: “Never in our life times, or our children, or our grandchildren, or even our grandchildren’s grandchildren, will this vision of swift and effortless travel to the stars become a reality. We may one day step foot upon the earth of nearby systems after decades of travel, but one must immediately give up the possibility of interstellar empires where one can visit numerous system in a matter or weeks, or month. Such a notion is, and will always remain, impossible.”
There was but a single rebuttal, written by the only person on the team who refused to sign off on the findings. Her message was simple and to the point: “We should never forget Clark’s First Law.”
On 16 June, 2235, the Eris Observatory detected a large, focused neutrino burst emanating from a point 26 degree below the Elliptic and approximately 118 AU distant. Probes in the Oort Cloud had, as well, detected gravitational variations not far from the point of the initial burst. Though Eris had nothing that could readily investigate this phenomena, the research ship Kamehameha would soon be passing Pluto’s orbit—at the time it had been on its way from Terra to study Trans-Plutonian bodies—and could be dispatched.
The Kamehameha was ordered to Eris where they laid over just long enough to pick up three specialists: Gibson Daimler, an astrophysicist, and Tracy Powell and Karlena McNutt, both engineers. The ship was then ordered to a point where they could intercept the object that had been the true source of the neutrino emissions: a large vessel traveling approximately fifteen percent the speed of light, which was currently following a long, curving arc around the Solar System.
The unknown ship was intercepted by the Kamehameha two days later. The vessel was huge: 380 meters long by 60 m wide by 35 m high. Though the ship did not respond to any of the Kamehameha’s inquiries, after a day of probing the hull an airlock was discovered. Within hours the crew had access to the interior of the alien vessel.
Though the ship was apparently empty, the lights were on, environmental systems were on-line and were working, and there was oxygen and gravity, with these being exactly like what one would discover on Terra. Quarters were found that appeared built for creatures perhaps slightly taller than humans, though no one could say for certain what these creature may have looked like—one of the specialists, Blair Humon, surmised from chairs found in several rooms that the aliens that built the ship may have been tripeds, or even quadrupeds. No food was found in an obvious kitchen, nor was any organic material discovered in what appeared to be a medical facility.
For a full day the crew searched those parts of the ship they could enter. They found a bridge that seemed singularly devoid of instruments—although as Powell stated, they could be standing next to the navigation system and never know it. What instruments the bridge did possess were covered in characters similar to hieroglyphics. They also found several common areas, as well as entrances to what were believed to be the engineering and the computer sections. As with other locked rooms no one could figure out how to open the doors, as reading the alien characters on the panels next to the doors was impossible. No matter what actions were taken with the panels, they were unable to open any doors.
Finally Karlena McNutt was given permission to force open the door thought to lead into engineering. She and Powell gathered equipment and a few explosive charges they’d brought from the observatory, and proceeded to work. Less than three minutes after they indicated they were wiring the door the alien ship began to accelerate away from the Kamehameha. Two crew members who were also on-board the ship with McNutt and Powell were able to return, but the Kamehameha had to break off as the alien ship accelerated away at 40Gs, stranding the women. Two minutes later the ship vanished with a burst of neutrinos. The Kamehameha crew returned to Terra and submitted their findings, which were immediately classified secret.
Only a handful of people ever knew what had happened to Powell and McNutt.
2 March, 2236, another neutrino burst occured—only this one was detected just outside the orbit of Uranus and not in Trans-Plutonian space and belonging to a ship entering the Solar System and decelerating slowly from six percent the speed of light. This ship was not nearly as large as the other: only 43 meters by 18 by 12. And while it wasn’t responding to inquiries, its orbit indicated it was on a direct course for Terra, something that scrambled nearly every ship from Mars to Neptune.
The craft was intercepted just outside the orbit of Saturn. It resembled the other ship the Kamehameha examined in nearly every way except size. As the patrol destroyer Euxine approached the alien vessel the ship hailed and, to the surprise of everyone, on the bridge, Tracy Powell sent a greeting: “How the hell are ya? Me and Karlena would like to know: where you want us to park this thing?”
The Euxine and five other ships escorted Powell and McNutt to the research station on Phobos. The ship was instantly placed in storage for examination while the ladies were sent to Luna, where they spent the next four months undergoing every imaginable form of regression therapy known to find out where they had been and how they’d come in possession of the ship. After four months the people examining Powell and McNutt discovered two things:
One, the ship had been given to them by a race known as the Sha’lan and it possessed an FTL drive.
Two: nothing beyond that.
The station on Phobos set themselves to reverse engineering the Sha’lan drive, attempting to figure out how it worked. There were manuals, written in English—later discovered to have been written by McNutt without her knowledge—to help them along, as well as an explanation of the basic theory. After some of Earth’s top physicists were able to go over the formula for FTL travel, there was heard the sound of collective head-slapping, for once some advanced principles of quantum physics were taken from the Sha’lan’s theories and factored into some Terran ones, it was easy to see how similar they were.
So much was understood that a new drive was built in six months time, while the ship took another three. On 21 February, 2237, the Bonadventure became the first human vessel equipped with an FTL drive to go faster than light in a vacuum, reaching a speed of 220c during its shake-down cruise.
The door to the stars had not been opened so much as kicked down.
For just over a hundred years the top speed of the Powell-McNutt Drive, as the system was known because no one would be told it was an alien drive until 2840 GS, was 250c. Then in 2348 there was a small increase to 300c and a bigger jump to 500c in 2487. While one could always go slower, it seemed there was a top speed.
The reason was simple: the PMD phased a bubble of “Trans-Einsteinium space” around the ship, allowing it to slip into an extra-dimensional continuum. The density of the phase bubble was the true gage of speed: the more dense the bubble, the faster one could travel. The bubble could be made denser by pumping more energy into it, but there lay the really tricky part: much of the original theory on the PMD didn’t seem to work when it came to increasing bubble density. Or rather, the theory said one thing, but the reality of that change was something all together different.
Simply pumping more energy into the bubble didn’t work. There was a bit of symmetry that came into play when adding energy to the surface of the phase bubble; it wasn’t something that could be done through brute force, since the bubble needed to be reconfigured so as to better handle the additional velocity. These reconfigurations were insignificant at lower velocities, but the further engineers pushed the drive beyond 500c, the more complex the patterns became.
Over 300 Standard years passed before the 1000c limit was broken and this was followed by what engineers refereed to as the Century of Speed. In 2803 a speed of 1200c was achieved; then, only 67 years later this was increased to 1500c. Finally, in 2937 a velocity of 1800c was reached. It was thought that 2000c would be reached if not within the next 50 or 100 years, at that point not long before the start of the Third Millennium.
No such thing occurred.
The PMD reached 1800c in the last few years of the 30th Century and remained there. Nothing the FTL experts did could make a ship go faster. There were moments when engineers believed they had cracked the PMD Limitation, but when actual tests were performed the ship never passed the 1800c marker.
By the beginning of the 32nd Century the Limit became for many scientists and engineers what faster than light travel had been at the start of the 23rd Century: an absolute that would never be solved or beaten. Academic paper after paper was published explaining why there would be no further advances in the PMD. How 1800c would be the upper limit; how the Empire would simply have to live with this constraint.
Of course there were detractors: there always are. Most were not taken seriously. The detractors had nothing to offer in the way of a solution, and so their arguments were moot.
That would all change before the century was out.
Dr. Thomas McCrimmon had already made a name for himself by 3172 Galactic Standard. His genius was established early in 3159 GS when, at the age of 14, he published a paper redefining the basic quantum wormhole theory behind the creation of transom lines; the application of his work allowed them to be produced more efficiently using less power. Two years later, already in his second year of college, he published another paper that, within a year, led to the development of a portable transom device that used a fraction of the power of the current prototypes being tested. These contributions led to Tommy receiving a substantial royalty of a half a million Interstellar Pounds a year, as well as making him one of the few people who could travel anywhere in the Empire for free.
By the time he’d won the Copley Medal in 3170 GS, he’d already given the Powell-McNutt Limitation problem much thought. Tommy had never been one for listening to what others had to say concerning his ideas—as he often told anyone who’d listen, if he had, he would have never published his first paper—so he was disinclined to believe anyone who said 1800c could never be bettered. Pure rubbish as far as he was concerned, for he remembered how Terran theories had been very close to breaking the FTL barrier before the gift of the Power-McNutt Drive and how the pundits of the day had stated that the light barrier would never be broken. At a lecture he gave soon after winning the Copley Medal, Tommy boldly stated that humans would have developed a FTL drive on their own and in all likelihood would have done so within fifty years of the date of their acquisition of the PMD. Despite having nearly a thousand years to review the evidence, Tommy’s remarks were met in the mainstream with considerable skepticism.
Tommy knew the solution to the Limitation lie not in getting more energy into the phase bubble, but in creating a new element for the bubble. The PMD phase bubble was created in a trans-dimension of Einsteinium space-time, so as Tommy reckoned, if the current trans-dimension was imposing limitations, then a different trans-dimension was needed. This had been tried in the past: the PMD formula had been adjusted many time to work towards the creation of the phase bubble in a hereto unexplored sub-dimension. All of these attempts had failed and Tommy knew why:
None of the people developing these theories believed as strongly in Clark’s Second Law as Thomas McCrimmon.
Tommy spent two years revising the basic drive theories before hitting upon his solution. The trans-dimension he would use was really little more than a quantum sub-dimension of a sub-dimension of superspace, that unique parcel of quantum space-time that was just now coming into vogue as a possible power replacement for mater/anti-mater reactions. Tommy had become the leading proponent of superspace topographical theory and he believed that he could use this quantum sub-dimension to not only break through the PM Limitation, but set a new maximum speed so high that if he were correct—and he had no reason to doubt he wasn’t—the Empire might be looking at intergalactic travel by the end of the century.
After the basic theory was developed a test craft was constructed. Tommy was able to fund much of the development from his own finances due to the money he’d earned from transom royalties, so he didn’t have to worry about backers telling him he was doing everything wrong. He oversaw much of the development and construction himself, often having parts auto-fabricated at New Oxford, where he’d begun teaching. Most of his time he was in his lab the going over delicate working on the engines, the first to tap superspace energies, and developing the trans-dimensional phasing integrator that would create the new phase bubble that would propel the craft—the Quantum Extra-Dimensional Conveyance, as he was calling it—to velocities approaching an estimated twenty million times the speed of light.
Finally the time came to test the craft and theory. A twenty light-year race course was set up outside the University system to test the conveyance. A school research ship brought the conveyance to one end of the course where it was deployed. The time had been set to begin the experiment, so both sides could record the exact moments of departure and arrival. Tommy had decided that he would adjust the speed so the twenty light years would be covered in ninety seconds—a speed of nearly 7,000,000 C.
On 12 April, 3173 GS, at 17:22:00 UMT, Tommy set the controls and de-phased the craft from normal time-space. The conveyance vanished—
And reappeared at the other end of the course ninety seconds later.
The test was a success.
Tommy said little during the three day trip from the track to University. He refused to review the data until he was back in his lab. He would only allow one message to be transmitted to New London and University indicating the test had been conducted and appeared successful, but stated nothing else. He knew what he and the others had done, but he wanted to be certain that nothing was amiss before acknowledging that they’d beaten the PM Limitation. He wanted to be certain there’d been no unforeseen problems.
Tommy found nothing out of the ordinary. His avatar assistant Heather found nothing out of the ordinary. But Tommy knew something was wrong. He felt it, that something was amiss, but he couldn’t see it.
Two days later he found what he was looking for. The problem was, to say the least, unexpected. Tommy spent another two days pouring over the data to see if there was the possibility of misinterpretation. There wasn’t. He knew he had to confirm these finding before he could even begin thinking about turning his discovery over to the Ministry of Science for evaluation.
He scheduled another test two weeks after the first. He set same criteria as the earlier test. Tommy would de-phase the conveyance at one end and re-phase at the other and the time between these events would be ninety seconds. Then they would then gather up the data and return to University to analyze what they’d collected.
The test went as expected. Nothing seemed different from the one before. It was only a few hours later, while Tommy examined the data, in particular the clock readings from both sides of the race course, that he found his “abnormality”.
The clocks were synchronized by a tacyhon pulse sent out every one-one hundredth of a second from University. The clock on-board the conveyance had been synchronized by the same pulse, so technically, all three clocks should be the same. It was right after the first test Tommy noticed a tiny discrepancy: while the timer on the conveyance showed a 90.0032 second journey, the race course clocks showed a different time: 89.9999999999987. It wasn’t a huge difference, but it was enough to make Tommy wonder.
This time there was no mistaking what had happened, for Tommy had forced a problem the second time. Tommy had de-phased the conveyance at 10:15:12 UMT. The clock on the conveyance showed it had been de-phased for 90.00004002 seconds. It was the re-phase that was troublesome, however. For the conveyance had returned to normal time-space, at the other end of the test course, at 10:15:08 UMT.
The conveyance had arrived at Point B before it had left Point A, just as Tommy planed.
In one of the greatest failures of his short career, Thomas McCrimmon—much to his considerable chagrin—had created a working space-time machine.
And there you have: my own little slice of future space history.
Now, let’s see what I can come up with tomorrow…