TIME TRAVELERS ALL
David Alan Jones
Starship Clearwater, 3.5 million metric tons of human ingenuity and brilliance, tacked galactic south until its proper motion matched that of its white dwarf engine star, Clydesdale.
“We’re in position,” said Stocking, the pilot.
Dr. Gregg Kavet, Clearwater’s director, nodded. “Ready to give old Mother Nature a pinch?” he asked the ship’s resident astrophysicist, Dr. Sing Tzu.
The Asian man nodded and Kavet said, “All right, give Clydesdale the reins.”
Outside, the star field adjacent and about 0.2 AU from Clydesdale began to ripple and waver as if viewed through a hazy atmosphere. Almost at once the white dwarf began falling towards the depression Clearwater had created in spacetime, like a marble rolling down a drain.
“Extrusion point projected with minimal power loss,” said Tzu without looking up from his holo-panel. “Tidal stresses are well within shear tolerance.”
Clearwater rumbled, floor plates shaking like an old-fashioned subway car, as Clydesdale’s gravity coaxed it into motion. Although the ship and crew had made this type of jump several times before, Kavet always got butterflies at this point. Of course, if any of the jumps Clearwater had made deserved a fluttery stomach, it was this one.
Where the previous time shifts had been to significant periods in Sol System’s past, and those of only a few million years at most, this one would be Clearwater’ greatest feat to date.
Its mission was two-fold. First, solve the Paradox of Youth at the center of the Milky Way. Second, and related to the first, find out what started the event dubbed Spinbirth by its discoverer, Ted Figgen, one hundred fourteen years ago in the year 2018.
Figgen, an astrophysicist, determined that the Milky Way had begun to flatten and become a spiral galaxy almost exactly 7.2 billion years before present day. This very precise calculation, though proven and refined by later astronomers, baffled scientists of every stripe.
Coupled with the Paradox of Youth — the existence of many young stars at the Milky Way’s center — Spinbirth had become one of modern man’s greatest mysteries, one that had remained unsolvable until the creation of Clearwater. Now humanity would have its answers.
Kavet smiled at the thought. It reminded him of a poem by one of his favorite 21st century authors who had chided man for dreaming of traveling time since he was already a time traveler, moving from moment to moment into infinity.
“Insertion,” said Tzu.
Clydesdale proceeded out of the rip in spacetime — a fiery pinball — Clearwater coasting in its wake.
“Let’s have a look,” said Kavet.
The bridge environment disappeared, replaced by a 360 degree view of the star field.
“What the hell?” said Kavet.
Stars crowded every part of visible space about Clearwater, flooding the ship’s polarized screens with light.
Alarms began to wail.
“Radiation warning,” said Clearwater’s AI in a cool, male voice.
The deck shook violently. Stocking did something at his post and it lessened, though the hull still trembled.
“Clydesdale has fallen into the gravity well of a red giant about 3 AU from our current position,” said Tzu.
“Collision course?” asked Kavet. His heart was racing, but he couldn’t let it show. No need to worry the junior crewmembers.
“No,” said Tzu. “It’s safe, but I don’t like our chances surviving that much heat and radiation. I suggest we unhitch now and move out into deeper waters.”
Clearwater veered away from its engine star and the deck ceased its tremors. After a few seconds the warbling alarm stopped and the AI sounded an all clear.
Kavet stared at the star field, dotted with white, yellow, and red suns.
“Are we in the right when?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Tzu. “And the right place. We’re about a thousand light years from galactic center. You can see it there.” He pointed at a bright halo of light circling a black sphere.
“What’s with all this then? I don’t see enough –“ Kavet froze. “Tzu, did I just see a star appear?”
“I saw that too,” said Stocking.
“And another,” said Tzu.
“Dr. Kavet,” said Stocking, his voice awed, “we’re detecting a massive number of vessels in the area.
“How many is ‘massive’?”
Stocking paused, staring at his instruments as if he could change them by dint of will. When they didn’t change, he said, “Hundreds of millions, sir.”
“He is correct,” said Tzu, a bit of Japanese accent creeping into his voice. “I’m detecting roughly the same number of stars.”
Kavet felt sweat bead his forehead.
“Tzu, any chance we can catch Clydesdale and go home?”
Tzu shook his head. “We need flat space for that — no intervening gravity wells.”
Kavet scanned the star field. The place was lousy with stars.
“What the hell is happening here?” he asked.
Tzu left his science station to walk across the bridge, his eyes fixed on Sagittarius A, the super massive black hole at galactic center.
Kavet knew the man too well not to recognize a sudden insight. He waited while his science officer studied the heart of their galaxy.
“Spinbirth,” breathed Tzu. “We cause it — are causing it.”
“We, as in every sentient civilization in the galaxy that manages to create time travel. We all come here to see what happened. We come here and we cause it by emptying the galaxy’s outer shell, moving all these stars to the center, not only creating the spin, but simultaneously setting up the Paradox of Youth.”
Several more stars, one a main sequence like Sol, popped into existence in the field.
“How do we get back to our future?” asked Kavet, fearing the answer.
Tzu turned to face the director, silent for a moment.
“One second at a time.”