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Purify - Chapter 11 Putting it all together

As is his wont, Commander Stakus stared out over New London trying to figure out why the time rebels would need a String Slider ship, why there were so many echoes of the Canus Seven planecide signal and why Captain Danno had sent the “We are Early” message. That last one was the most puzzling of all. It is impossible for Time Control to send a String Slider to a planet early. Either the String Slider malfunctioned or slipped through too far due to a rupture in the space time continuum or Earth got the signal sooner than it should have. But if that were the case then they should also have received the normal signal at the right time. Gradually the pieces fell into place. With the aid of a String Slider could the rebels have somehow got the Canus Seven planecide signal to Earth early?

He called TIO Rio and Uli to his office to get the latest on the analysis of the echoes and to discuss his theory to them.

“Commander Stakus, the echoes have stopped now. It was ten days since we received the ‘We’re early’ message from Captain Danno,” said Uli. “We have analysed the duration of the of the ‘We’re early’ signal and found no apparent correlation to the Echoes.”

TIO Rio chipped in, “These are not the only signals to have echoes. In the past we have detected trace echoes after the primary signal but they had always followed the main signal and so we always assumed that they were due to reflections from interstellar objects such as dust clouds or sometimes they were due to gravity mirroring because of black holes and the like. However, the Canus Seven signals were all of a similar strength, In fact the strongest ‘echoes’ were some of the last we received. This shouldn’t happen”

“There’s a lot about all this that shouldn’t be happening Rio, Uli. We should never have lost a String Slider to the Time Rebels but it happened,” said Stakus. “I think that the missing String Slider and getting the Canus Seven planecide signal early are linked. What if…” and Commander Stakus outlined his theory to Uli and TIO Rio. They sat in increasing amazement that the Time Rebels could have thought up such a fiendish plot in the first place. To use String Sliding to accelerate a signal towards the Earth in turn forcing Time Control to dispatch a Purify team to arrive at the planecide before it had happened was wicked and, more importantly, impossible. It was impossible simply because it violated causality and caused time travel to the past. There should be something to stop that from happening, some sort of Hawking causality protection principle should come into play otherwise all sorts of anomalies would manifest.

“TIO Rio, I want you to run the planecide echoes through Fourier analysis to see if there are any re-transmission harmonics added to the earliest signal,” said Stakus, “If there are any then we will know that the Time Rebels have had a hand in this. Uli, come with me to the university; I’ve got an appointment with Zak Jedburgh. Let’s see what he says about the impact this has on the causality principles.”

TIO Rio left immediately and headed back to the lab. Even as he descended in the lift to the depths of the Time Control headquarters he knew that Commander Stakus was right. He knew this because he had helped Ken and Ben steal the String Slider ship in the first place. He wondered whether to report the analysis as having shown nothing unusual about the early echoes or if the Commander was sure of his theory, in which case to lie about the absence of a re-transmission signal contamination would show him up to be a collaborator with the time rebels. He decided to run the analysis first, as slowly as possible, to give himself time to think and decide his next course of action.

They said that the Time Rebels were only able to do what they did because they had never lost anyone to the sickness. For Time Information Officer Rio this was not the case. He had lost his dear friend Ritchie to that terrible disease. It took him first in the guts and then, more tragically, in the brain. They had managed to operate on his steely intestines but, when the left lobe of his brain began to mettalise they could not operate so easily. It took his mobility first and the inflexion in his voice. Ritchie loved to sing but found he could not inject any emotion into his singing voice. Though he hit every note precisely his singing was flat and bland. Losing his singing voice hit him harder than when his voice completely deserted him, six months later. Even knowing the pain that the sickness could inflict couldn’t make TIO Rio desert the Time Rebels. He believed that what Time Command was doing was immoral no matter what benefit it gave to those sufferers of the sickness.

TIO Rio had been working for String Research International when the cure for the sickness was discovered and also when it was found that the cure could not be reproduced in the lab. He was horrified when SRI was asked to investigate the potential application of String Research to discovering planecide events for the sole purpose of going to them to purify them of their radio-active debris. He knew that the purification aspect was just a front to make what they were doing seem moral. They were cleaning planets up after they had self-destructed. That they had self-destructed was not anything that we could do anything about in advance. By their very nature, we wouldn’t know of a planecide until after the event. There was nothing that could be done to prevent it so we might as well do what we could after the event to cleanse the planet and thus give it the best chance for any future civilisation that may develop on the planet. That was the acceptable face of the Time Control Project. The fact that they made a healthy profit from the radio-active debris that they purified and were able to use in the cure for the sickness was simply a welcome side issue to them. This was how it was justified to the world and, with nearly everyone touched by the sickness in one way or another, including himself, the world was prepared to accept the line about merely profiting from the misfortune of others if it meant a cure for their loved ones. When the Time Control Project was set up and SRI swallowed up into the corporation, TIO Rio had kept quiet about his abhorrence of the project, partly to keep his job but mostly because he thought that he might be of use to the Time Rebels as a man on the inside. And so it had proved.

Meanwhile, Stackus and Uli had an appointment with Zee Jay (as he liked to be called). It was Zee Jay’s work on Tachyonic matter that first allowed them to investigate the strings and the various ways that they could be exploited. Stakus knew that Zee Jay had been trying to find ways to violate the Hawking cosmic cloaking principles using String Sliding but so far he had not cracked the problem. When he heard that Commander Stakus of the Time Control Project wanted to see him he hoped that he had some good news of the Time Sliding front.

It seemed that he wasn’t to be disappointed.

“I’ll get straight to the point,” said Stakus, “we think that the cosmic cloak can be lifted in certain circumstances.”

“And we think that it has already happened at least once,” added Uli.

Stakus and Uli went on to describe the circumstances surrounding the Canus Seven mission and what they believed had happened while Zak sat quietly noting it all down, only occasionally interrupting to clarify a point here or there.

When Stakus and Uli had finished explaining, Zak sat back and exhaled deeply, “I’m sorry to disappoint you but what you describe has already been considered and the majority opinion is that it doesn’t happen like that. We have explored the equations and, even if the time signal could be accelerated towards Earth with a string slider ship your mission to the planet would still have to arrive after the planecide had occurred. Causality prevents any other possibility.”

“Then how do you describe the message from Captain Danno?” demanded Uli.

“He, or more likely, someone in Time Control, is obviously having a joke with you – you say that the Danno signal wasn’t there when the signals were first processed by the seti@home project but that some how they appeared subsequently? I think your answer lies right there. Someone added the signal.

“But the signal was picked-up from stations all around the world – who could corrupt every file like that?” said Uli.

“Who would dare?” demanded Commander Stakus. They looked at each other and said simultaneously, “TIO Rio.”

“Thank you for your time Professor,” said Stakus, “you have been a great help.” With that Stakus and Uli both returned to Time Command and summoned TIO Rio.

Rio had already concluded that he could get away with hiding the re-transmission contamination of the early echoes of the planecide and was rehearsing his arguments to back this up when he was called to go to the Commander’s office immediately. He never liked it when ‘Immediately’ was tacked on to tannoy announcements – it always made him think of being at school again.

Once in the office and facing Uli and Stakus (who looked less pleased than ever) he was able to ask what they had discovered.

“You first,” said Commander Stakus, “what did you find when running the first signals through the analysis machine?”

“N n n nothing,” he said nervously, it really was like being hauled up before the headmaster all over again. “There is no sign of any electronic re-transmission of the signal.”

“Good. Good,” said Stakus, “and what about the Captain Danno message. Any sign of tampering with that?”

“Well, I wasn’t specifically looking at that one,” he said, “but now that you mention it there is a possibility that it was re-transmitted locally and I won’t be last to tell you that the way it suddenly appeared on the records shows that someone nearby might have tampered with the records.” TIO Rio was deliberately trying to put them off the scent.

“You see, the thing is,” said Stakus, “we have had it confirmed that it is impossible for Danno to have arrived early because it would be the same as travelling back in time and that is impossible.

“So you think that someone here in Time Control must have tampered with the recordings to put the Danno message in. And the echoes?” asked Rio.

“We think that there must be something anomalous in the line of sight between here and Canus Seven. We have sent a String Slider to investigate,” Said Uli.

“I’ll start the investigation into who could have got to the recordings and injected the Danno signal,” said TIO Rio and he saluted as he left Stakus’ office.

“Do you think he bought it?” asked Uli.

“Hook line and sinker,” said Stakus, “let’s see how long it is before he contacts his Time Rebel buddies.”

“And maybe that will lead us back to our stolen String Slider,” said Uli.

The String Slider that was about to make an unscheduled reunion with an old pal.