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Purify - Chapter 6 On Board the Eric Laithwaite

“We’ve found another one, captain, we need to set course for the Lyral sector,”

“Are you sure it’s worth it?” Captain Ken asked, “I mean, how do we know that any of this is making any difference at all?”

“Ken, we’ve gone over this. When we were thinking about how to stop the disgusting trade in misery that is represented by the Time Command project, Den’s was the only non-violent solution that offered any chance of turning the tide of public opinion.”

“I know, Ben, but I wish we could know if it is working. It’s such a lot of traipsing about round the time lanes, string sliding and all that and for what? – Shouldn’t we be doing something about the planets themselves?” Ken asked.

“Come on captain; don’t let it get you down. We have a string slider ship! I promise that after this mission we’ll use it to see something interesting. How about the Crab?”

“I’m not hungry and anyway – you know I don’t eat seafood,” replied the captain with a smile not noticed by Ben until it was too late.

“I meant the Crab neb… Oh! I get it now. May I set course for Lyra?”

“Set course of course,” said the captain, aware that all starship captains had to have a catch phrase and that, he had decided, was his.

The String Slider Laithwaite had been stolen by Ken and Ben of the Time Rebels and they were using it to mess with the work of the Time Command project. They had equipped the ship with special antennae which they used to shield and collect the signals emitted by a planet that is in the throws of destroying itself in global thermonuclear war. The characteristic signals were a rapid series of sharp electromagnetic pulses (attack) followed by a pause and then another such series (retaliation) and finally a few more, widely spaced pulses as remnant bombs are found and let off. This was the signal that Time Control were on the look out for so they could dispatch a string slider to collect the aftermath. Ben and Ken were patrolling a segment of space several light years away from the Earth so they could pick up these signals before the string assisted telescopes of Time Control on Earth could. When the rebels detected a planecide they used string sliding to take up a position between it and the earth and they unfurled their huge shield to both pick up the signature and, more importantly to prevent as much of it as possible from reaching the Earth. Then they used string sliding to get very close to the Earth where they unfurled the antennae a second time and transmitted their signals to the Earth so that they arrived ahead of their proper time. This would cause Time Control ship to send one of their ships to the source of the signature but it would arrive early.

This time-bending plot was thought up by Den and she had approached Ben to implement it. Of course, when he realised that it needed a String Slider ship he knew he would need a pilot and he also knew just the man. Ken believed that the Time Control project was immoral and Ben was sure that he would help them. Together they had managed to steal this ship and evade capture while they put this little project of their own into action. At the moment even the commander Stakus himself didn’t know what they were doing.

What they were doing wasn’t only illegal because of the fact that they had stolen the ship from the Time Control project. It also broke several rules of causality. It is all very well being able to travel apparently into the past to collect radioactive debris from distant planets but being alerted to a planet’s demise before it had happened ‘as seen from the Earth’ implied that they were travelling to times in Earth’s history and this shouldn’t be possible. The geometry in four – space shouldn’t allow it and yet Ben, Ken and Den were making it happen. If Time Control knew what they were doing they could open up whole new fields of String Theory research.

Ken set course for Lyra and programmed in the slide. Ben and Den took their seats as Ken opened the tachyon capacitors and allowed enough faster than light particles into the fluxor. As the string they had targeted unfurled in front of the ship their de-zip flanges kept it open long enough for them to slide in. In an instant, every atom of their being turned through ninety degrees and they were sliding the string to Lyra.

The slide was a reasonably short one and when they emerged back into real space-time and their atoms had snapped back into their normal configuration Ken was the first to notice that something was not quite right. “Why haven’t we moved?” he asked Ben but Ben was too busy looking out of the window.

“What the hell is that?” he exclaimed, “and why is it that awful colour?”

Den and Ken joined him at the window. “That’s a bi-frustum,” said Den.

“It’s a purple bi-frus-tum-ingy thing,” said Ben, “Anyone seen anything like that before?”

“Nope!” Ken and Den chimed together. “Eric; establish communications with our purple people over there if you would be so kind.”

“Sorry Ken, No can do. The Purple vessel is withholding communications from us,” replied the ship’s AI. “But I can tell from its rotations that it is precessing and translating without visible means of propulsion. In other words it had cracked inertia-less drive. I would like more time to observe, Ken, if I may?”

“Take all the time you need Eric – I don’t think we’re going anywhere for a while. Den, Ben; why do you think the slide didn’t work?”

“I’ll check the fluxor,” said Ben.

“and I’ll go over the String Segmentor Interfaces just to be sure – though I overhauled them last week, so I know they were working then,” Den added.

Ken mumbled something to himself about going back to time pilot school and settled down to double check the tachyon capacitors from the comfort of his cabin, “Eric, tell me it that thing starts doing anything funny.”

“Funny peculiar or funny ha ha?” asked Eric. “Either!” said the captain.

After about half an hour but what seemed much longer the crew got back together and each one reported what the others already knew. Everything was in order. The Slide should have gone as smoothly and uneventfully as all the others. Something had intervened and they were fairly sure what.

“Eric? Any change from the pentagonal bi-frustum?” asked Ken, “The PURPLE pentagonal bi-whatsit,” corrected Ben.

“No change at all – it just spins there inertly.”

“OK,” said Ben, “let’s try for Lyra again. Since everything checks out now, we should only assume that there was something amiss before which has corrected itself now.

“Hang on a minute!” protested Den, “Don’t you want to know more about out purple friends?”

“Not really, said Ben, “If they had wanted to make any form of contact then they would have done so by now. I say bugger them we have a mission and there’s a planet in Lyra that we have to try to save.”

“Except that we’re not trying to save it, are we?” said Ken. “We’re just messing with its death throws in order to embarrass the people in Time Control. If we really wanted to save it we’d go back there ourselves.”

“We’ve been over this, Ken.” Said Ben, “Only time control has the energy it takes to send ships that far back. All we can do, in our own little way, is re-arrange the signals so they spend their energy sliding their ships back a bit further.”

“I’ve been thinking about that actually,” said Den, “and I know I came up with this hare-brained scheme in the first place but, really, it should not be possible to do what we do. There. I’ve said it now. There should be something to stop us.”

“And I think that we have met that something,” said Ken, “Look!”

The Purple bi-frustum split into two frustae and between them an eerie purple glow emanated. The two halves stopped rotating and moved, in unison, to the front of the ship. Then they began to move towards the Laithwaite, one above it and one beneath. As it passed the length of the ship the purplness suffused the cabin and Ken, Ben and Den all felt time twist around them until they were somewhen else.