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Purify - Chapter 3 - Time Command

“Why didn’t you show me this message analysis before?” commander Stakus bellowed.

“Because it wasn’t there before,” pleaded communications officer Uli.

“What do you mean not there before? How could it have appeared from nowhere?” Stakus asked, incredulously.

“The data files were checked as they came in using the seti@home software and no signal was seen but we were worried about the strange echoes on the Canus Seven planecide and so we went over the data again. We weren’t even looking for a seti signal – we were looking at the planecide ones but someone must have forgotten to turn off the seti analysis and the data was examined again. That’s when the signal was found.”

“So, can we translate it?” asked the increasingly furious Stakus.

“No need, it’s in English,” said Uli as calmly as though it were a call from his mum.

“WHAT!?” The commander was in serious danger of activating his mood controller which had already been turned down so as to allow the right amount of rage as befits a station commander stereotype. “What does it say?” he asked, eventually.

“Well, it’s from the Canus Seven crew alright. They say, and I quote, ‘Arrived early, Weather terrible, Wish you were here, signed Danno.’ And there’s a kiss.”

This time the mood regulators had to kick in and at full strength. Stakus was furious, “What the hell do they think they are playing at? What sort of a message is that?”

“Well, I suppose they didn’t know if we could pick it up at all and they wanted something simple. The message was repeated eight hundred and thirty seven times and you know what Captain Danno is like.”

“Yes I know him and his ways but he usually gets the job done. What do you think it means?”

“Probably a bit windy. It’s usually quite cold too,” answered Uli.

“Not the bloody weather report, the bit about being early.” Uli knew that the best way to handle one of commander Stakus’s tantrums was to crack a joke if possible.

“I have put Time Information Officer Rio to work on that but we think that it is related to the Canus Seven echoes that we were originally investigating. What we don’t know is how early they meant to say they were. Whether they arrived in the middle of the conflict – that could be the weather reference - or maybe actually before the hostilities had even begun.”

“Who else apart from you and TIO Rio know about this?” Stakus asked anxiously, “because, if the Time Rebels hear about it there will be hell to pay. Up till now we have used to inevitability argument to justify our project but if word gets out that we can arrive in time to prevent a planet from committing suicide then the debate will almost certainly go against us.”

“Nobody sir, just you, me and TIO Rio. The others are all working on the Canus Seven signal echo anomaly.”

“Make sure that’s all they’re working on. The fewer people that know about this, the better. Keep me informed on your findings. You’d better get back and help Rio figure out what it means. ‘Wish you were here’ indeed, Eight hundred and thirty seven times you say? – How long, in time, is the message? Maybe that will give us a clue as to how early they are.”

“I’m onto to it sir,” said Uli as he saluted and left the commander’s office.

Commander Stakus stared out of his window over the skyline of New London. They had re-built New London Over the old one but, apart from the altitude, you would not know it. Most of the old buildings had been re-constructed exactly as they were before the Thames flooded in twenty-twelve. In the last twenty years, new London had risen, quite literally, out of the water. It was a pity, thought Stakus, that they had lacked the imagination to build anew. Instead, King Charles had wanted to “avoid any more monstrous carbuncles” and “retain the character” of the Capital City. Stakus was thinking about the thousands of people with the sickness that had started in twenty twelve. The world’s eyes were upon London as it managed to hold the Olympics amid the devastation of the floods when the first people started to go down with it, his wife was amongst those ill. She might as well be dead, he thought.

The sickness caused many deaths in the early years until they managed to use string tech to hold the early stage victims in time stasis while the materials for the cure were collected. People with the disease died in agony as parts of their body metallised. Depending upon which part was affected, you could survive. Some even enjoyed having metal bits of their body. But usually it was fatal, a metal heart doesn’t pump so well and a metal brain finds it hard to think clearly. Being held in time stasis cut you off from the rest of reality. And that was where Stakus’ wife was. They had a strict queuing system and members of Time Command didn’t get any priority for their loved ones.

The cure was discovered after Iran had detonated their nuclear bomb.

People living in the suburbs, well away from ground zero, were not killed by the initial blast. Some of them, with the early stages of the disease found that they got better if they walked the contaminated deserted streets. It took a great deal of research to discover why. It seems that the isotopes, forged in a nuclear detonation, were able to reverse the metallisation through disruptive decay.

Obviously, the scientists immediately set about creating these elements in their nuclear laboratories but, even though they could re-create the exact isotopes in the right mix, it didn’t have the same effect. There was something extra about the energy released when a million people die that meant the isotopes were charged with psyonic radiation and only they could cure the sickness.

The supply of such material was obviously limited. Eventually, Iran’s ground zero was stripped bare and the effective material had a short half-life anyway. It was about then that string theory research was bearing fruit and the time stasis fields were invented. They kept people in suspended animation without interfering with their body chemistry or having to cool them down. Within the field, time literally stopped in the same way that a Faraday cage excluded electrical charge the TSF excluded time.

That’s where Stakus’ wife was. They had agreed that she should be held there and that, no matter what happened, she should sleep until they had a cure, even if that meant that Stakus would not be there to see the TSF removed. It was the hardest decision Stakus had ever taken but, in the end, he wanted her to live a full life not a shortened and agony filled one. He could see her whenever he wanted and it was enough to know that she felt no pain. Like sleeping beauty she would one day awake, hopefully into a world that did justice to her beauty unlike the present. Stakus often thought about getting into the TSF with her but that would mean only blocking out this world not joining her in hers for hers was a world without time.

Advances in astronomy were being made at an increasing rate and soon extra-solar planets were routinely being discovered. String enabled telescopes could image entire alien worlds and not all of them were uninhabited.

But the breakthroughs in observation were to be matched by another, much more important breakthrough in travel. They had found a way to unfurl into our three dimensions the tightly rolled-up hidden dimensions of the superstrings. They could unfurl them and keep them open long enough for an object to be pushed inside before the superstring collapsed in on itself again and the object was gone. Nobody knew where it had gone to but, “if a string has one end then it has another end” and they devised a way to work out where the other end was. Using short strings at first, they tried to use them to transport, instantaneously, objects across the lab. It didn’t work. Time and again the matter just seemed to disappear. Until someone had the idea that it might be a conscious mind that made the difference.

A dolphin was the first creature to be teleported in this way. It successfully emerged into the pool at the other end of the laboratory complete with its water-filled vessel. The whole thing had been transferred smoothly, point to point, in zero time. Intrepid volunteers followed and soon a network of jaunting booths was established around the world.

The telescopes were now scouring the skies for planetary systems and finding them in great abundance. Knowing about the cure for the sickness they started to look for a particular signature from these alien worlds.

The discovery of an alien world that had, for whatever reason, just undergone planet-wide thermonuclear war provided the target for the most ambitious string-slide ever. The plan was to send a ship to the dead world’s system to recover the nuclear by-products from the planet’s surface, return to Earth and use them in the cure. All they had to do was find the right string connecting our world with theirs.

It was a controversial plan. From the outset there were those opposed to this ‘using’ of another world’s dead for our own ends but the ravages of the sickness were too terrible to ignore. The mission was a success and soon other planets in their death-throws were being discovered in our Galaxy. In a universe of infinite stars there were infinite inhabited worlds and in a universe of infinite inhabited worlds there were bound to be some that were killing themselves with nuclear weapons. Only time and distance separated them from us. Who knows, the planet totally destroying itself might one day be Earth? In the meanwhile, interstellar exploration was concentrated on collecting material for the cure. That was the project the Commander Stakus headed.

The Time Rebels, as those terrorists opposed to this ‘grave robbing’ were called, used every argument that they could think of (and other tactics too) to try and prevent the success of Time Command. Most recently they had managed to appropriate a String Slider ship and no one knew where they had taken it or what they needed it for.