short story on how humans got FTL engines.
Well, the problem with FTL is it’s not physically viable….see theory of relativity. But, there are theories that can achieve the same effect. Quick interstellar travel.The PODby Cyberjnkee
was brilliant. The kind of spooky smart that makes the average of the world
wonder where the bell curve went. Early in her life she knew she was different
than other children. While they played with blocks, she played with the theory that
quark anomalies could be harnessed as exotic matter and fuel engines. She was
not well liked by many of her peers, or anyone else for that matter. Her I.Q.
was literally off the charts and this frightened some, just plain weirded
others out. Growing up in a sheltered environment, she had been exposed to
little human interaction. What little she did get was cold and sometimes
resentful. This lead to her constant need for someone, anyone, to be in a given
room with her at all times. If left in an open space by herself, she became
uncontrollably terrified. She would scream with abandon until answered by
another person. She also had an odd fear of doorways making it hard to move
from place to place. She would skirt the edge of any opening leaving the center
unoccupied as if there were something else there she did not want to come in
Living her formative
years sheltered in what amounted to a think tank test tube,
was encouraged to develop her intelligence and creative thought processes.
Seeking new ways of looking at old issues that man could never find the way to
or around. To her, the long calculations that bind the universe were how she
played with blocks, deep spectrum analysis her coloring books. As she aged her
mind expanded and before she was sixteen, she was, without question, the finest
mind man had ever created.
Constancealso was driven
The officer that
pulled Jason Kirk over was unclear what to do. He knew the grav-cycle had to be
moving at twice the speed limit. He knew that. His instruments, however, said
the kid was traveling just under the speed limit. Perplexed, he knew he had no
“”OK, kid. I’m going to give you a break. Take that
deathtrap off my road……slowly.” The charming smile the boy flashed did nothing
to reassure the officer, so he shrugged , mounted his own bike, and drove away.
Jason shook his head, threw his middle finger at the quickly disappearing back
and got back on his bike. Driving the forty odd miles to the installation where
he was to begin work, purposely ignoring the speed limit, he pulled into the
parking lot just before dusk.
Pulling off his
helmet and enjoying the dismayed look he received at the reception desk, Jason
entered the government facility. A squat one story building it sprawled over
several acres. It’s halls a maze inside hiding the denizens. Some where there
by choice, their fragile minds close to but not quite ready to, breaking. Some
where there by necessity. They had lost all grip on what passed for the reality
we lived in. Jason was here to talk to one of those that were here by
necessity. He was here to talk to Constance Farrell.
“Mr. Kirk,” the
doctor was advising him, “make sure you use soft tones. Treat her gently, she
is quite fragile.” The sour look on the young man’s face spoke volumes. “If you
push her, she will not talk to you at all. Will shut down and your questioning
will be fruitless.” No change. With a heavy sigh, the doctor continued, “Look,
I don’t care if you have the I.Q. of Einstein and are here to “save the world.”
Constanceneeds delicate handling or she will be of zero
use to you or anyone else.. Do you understand, MISTER Kirk?”
“OK, Doc, whatever,”
Kirk responded noncommittally. “And for the record, ten points better than
shouldered his pack and made for the door. He ignored the doctor’s advice and
decided, at that moment, to make sure he DID push this so-called savant to
prove his intellect was superior. He would think circles around this crazy old
lady and have fun embarrassing her. What a joke that the government should pull
him off his research to go and babysit some woman who couldn’t handle the
basics of taking a bath and brushing her teeth without help. He’d show them.
First he’d make this mental gimp crack, them make them beg on their knees to
get him back on the FTL project. This was going to cost them big. As he rounded
the corner, he bumped into a girl, about seventeen maybe, very pretty, being
guided down the hall by a nurse. “Sorry.” He mumbled, making his way to the
nurse’s desk at the center of the complex. Behind the desk flashed vitals of
various patients on moderately sized flat screens the time in one corner, a
mini-map of the complex with a green dot showing location in the other. Various
essential telemetry was displayed across the panel, mostly uninteresting, so
Jason ignored it. He did, however, notice that while all the times on all the
panels were the same, there was one out of sync.
clock seemed to be frozen, completely unmoving. It flashed “”He wondered briefly why as he asked the
nurse where he could find
Constance’s room but not
nearly enough to inquire about it. “Oh, her room is down the hall, third door
on the right. But, she’s on a walk right now. You can wait there if you like.”
Young and impatient, the annoyed boy walked to
room, opened the door and let himself in. Looking much as he expected a seventy
year-old’s room to look, he was unimpressed. The outdated pictures on the wall
of friends and family looked faded and so two-dimensional. Not at all the life
you get with today’s holos. The clothes he saw hanging in the closet, at least
fifty years out of style. Of course, if she kept them a few more years, they
may come back, he mused. He settled at the desk and pulled out the file he had
on her. The paper was old and yellow, a telltale sign of the age of the
missives. Shuffling through the file, he found her picture. Faded a bit, the
photo looked a bit familiar, he had seen her before? Shaking his head, he started
and looked up at a sound. The door was opening.
When she was fifteen,
introduced to advanced physics theory including some unknown treatises of
Albert Einstein. In these writings, he theorized that faster than light travel
was possible, but at such cost that it became impractical. He offered
alternative theories that he had no real basis for, but intuition made him
certain they were possible. She was intrigued.
over his involved calculations, she mulled over the “folding” of space, theory
of subspace particles and was eventually drawn to something he called “punch”
space. In this theory a person would be able to punch a hole in regular space,
travel through an alternate dimension and end up at a completely different
point in regular space. Instantly. No time loss due to the relativity of travel
speeds. All points relative to each other. She dived in with her analytical
mind. Her other mind, however, had a different plan. Tired of the possibility
of being alone, it wanted a constant companion. The animal side, as her upper
brain called her “other” side screamed it’s constant silent cry for someone to
be there with her. A call she could barely stand at times.
The institution she
worked in gave her everything she needed. She experimented and changed
parameters, let her equations evelve and, eventually, had a working prototype. She
created a tube, man-sized, sleek with a black sheen to it. The casing modeled
after an old movies idea of a photon torpedo. Depressing a hidden button opened
the shell revealing a white padded interior.
smiled. She had told them it would be ready in a week or so. The truth was, it
was ready now. She stepped in, closed the lid and palmed the control. It hummed
to life, the small LCD glowing with a constant readout. Being alone had been
worth all the agony she felt. She would never be alone again. She hit the
engage control and smiled.
Jason Kirk’s eyes
almost popped from his head. The young woman who came through the door, lead by
a nurse, was striking. She was also the same woman he was looking at in the
photo. EXACTLY the same woman. She had not aged a day that he could see. She was
also the young girl he had bumped into in the hall.
“Didn’t run me down in the hall and come to finish the job?”
“uhhhhhh, no?” Came his slow reply. “Ooooo, we have a quick
one here, Mabel.” She said to her nurse, “maybe he’s here to amuse us?”
settled stiffly into an easy chair as if she were brittle and ready to break,
her nurse taking some of her weight to help. Jason bristled at this little girl
making a fool of him but some instinct told him to tread lightly. He smiled and
asked “Constance Farrell?” Her eyes twinkled from her young face and belied a
mind that under no circumstances could reside there. “Of course, young man, but
you already know that, I see you have my file. Well, the condensed version
rearranged herself in the chair, settling a blanket over her legs in a
remarkably “old lady” pose, blew out a sigh and closed her eyes. “They really
should have prepared you better for this meeting. What overpriced project did
they send you here to pick my brain about?” Jason noticed a small keypad by her
left hand that she busied herself depressing buttons on. The nurse murmured
something in her ear, to which she nodded curtly, then bowed out of the room
leaving the two to talk. Almost as soon as the door had shut the soft sound of
clicking and whirring was heard and a fairly large computer screen came to life
on the wall the metal covering over it, separating and disappeared into a
hidden recess. With a shock, Jason saw his own file flash into being on the
Constanceperused it with lidded eyes, the tip
of her tongue protruding slightly. “Ok, good grades, impressive scores, very
creative. Oh no, Faster than Light? Really?” She turned to look him in the eye,
“You do know that’s impossible, right?”
Jason’s neck and he made to bark a sharp retort. Who was this girl trying to
give a physics lesson to? His calculations and prototypes were on the vegre of
breaking that barrier and he was going to rub her nose in it! “Oh, and you know
this because the secrets of the universe whisper to you in the night? Is that
why they put you in here?”
She smiled a crooked
smile before answering, “Something like that, yes.” Settling back and pursing
her lips, she gathered her thoughts. “FTL travel is not possible. Einstein had
one thing dead on, relativity. The closer you get to that speed, the further
out of phase with everything you become. What is instant to you, was twenty
years to the universe.” Jason rolled his eyes. He had been given this
particular lesson before. A very long time ago, in fact. “Buffering the space
in a warp bubble won’t work. Your prototype is perfect for inanimate objects
that have no shelf life, but nothing that ages.” He was surprised by her
knowledge of his prototype. As far as he knew only he knew it was ready. “The
trick is to make time work for you, not against you.” She keyed some more
buttons and a new display came up. “Tell me what you see here.”
The screen Jason
rose to was like nothing he had ever seen. The base calculation was a blend of
quantum physics and some alien formulae that defied his grasp. The graphic
representation showed and arc of sorts that folded into and out of itself. He
let his mind follow the curves and arcs, letting them resolve into an image of
sorts. When he had, some few minutes later, his eyes once again bugged out.
smiled her crooked smile. “Is this possible even? Create a whole new dimension
to travel in?”
The shell of the
pod glowed softly.
Constancesettled back into the
single chair that furnished the small space. Her terror was growing as she
spent these few moments alone, so she closed her eyes to steady herself.
Depressing some keys inlaid to the arm of her seat, a panel slid silently open
and she gazed out of the viewer. The world “shuddered” for a moment. A brief
shimmer and she felt like she was in two places at once. This was an accurate
assessment she discovered. She saw the gold streak combining her and, yes, her
across the open warehouse. Her heart pounded with glee. It worked. She could
travel instantly through the odd dimension she created with exotic matter and
harnessed mini black holes. She could aim the dimensional folding by entering
the unique resonance of the physical space. It seemed she, a young woman of
just fifteen, had just solved the Earth’s greatest travel hurdle. Keeping the
field open, she also could be in two places at one time. She wasn’t alone. A
frantic giggle escaped her as she powered the pod down and tried to settle
herself from the adrenaline pumping freely into her.
“It is possible, my
young friend. And it is also very practical, the energy limiting the event is
fairly nominal. But there are limitations.” She seemed a bit deflated now, like
her energy was slowly seeping away. “The biggest hurdle is not the creation of
the dimension or folding it, but the accurate navigation to specific points.”
Jason perused the
calculations again, seeking the strings that lead to navigation and resonance.
“I’m not sure I follow. In these numbers, the range seems undefinable. You just
need to enter relative points and extrapolate. If that’s true, the range should
be indefinite. With the right calculations you should be able to reach…” His
voice trailed off as he thought.
smile soured a bit. “Should” is such a fickle word.
She had kept her
test a secret. No one would expect her to ever sneak off on her own, after all.
Moreover, they would not suspect her true intentions. She wanted to travel the
universe. Get away from this mudball of a world and find other beings. Her
studies had proven the existence of non-naturally formed radio waves. Certainly
signs of intelligence. Certainly signs that she was wanted by a vast universe.
Her preparations took months. In small steps she outfitted her pod with
supplies she knew she would need. She stashed small amounts of her medications
away, day by day, as a precaution. Unfortunately, this lead to an increase in
her episodes and forced bed rest. That hindered her efforts but she persevered.
Just four days after her sixteenth birthday, she was ready. Stealing away after
dark, the installation was quiet. She padded her way to the warehouse where her
workshop was located and slipped in. Using a penlight, to keep her presence
unseen, she made
Constancemade her way to the pod. It
rolled out of the alcove silently with minimal effort. She plugged a power
coupler into the side port and a data cable to her worktable computer. She had
decided on a destination, a point approximately forty billion light years away.
According to her calculations, this was where a major radio disturbance was
located. Besides, if she was wrong, she could always just turn around and be
Constancesmiled at that, she was
never wrong. She remembered how her handlers had to fight with the scientists
CERNto test her hypotheses. Their
accelerator was a tool for serious science, not a toy for children had been the
hard stance they took. So the institute gave her a new persona. A dossier that
detailed her as a woman scientist, brilliant, but also child-LIKE. The irony
was delicious as they consented and confirmed theory after theory.
Ending her reverie
and attending to the matters at hand,
the details through her large workstation computer, feeding it into the onboard
model that would control her voyage. Pre-launch tests were good, hull integrity
at maximum. Radiation shielding was at two hundred percent estimated needs, her
oxygen scrubbers on-line and reserve power at full. Calming herself as she felt
the rising panic, she dry swallowed another anti-anxiety pill that had been set
aside for tonight. She nestled into the large padded chair, flipped the control
bridge over her lap and went over her readings one last time. Satisfied, she
let the engines wind up. The throbbing was felt as a deep pressure in her ear
more than heard. Closing her eyes,
“The problem” she
informed him with a forced smile “is Heisenberg’s Theory seems to hold up.” She
was noticeably pale now and a single bead of sweat rolled down her temple.
“Uncertainty grows in inverse proportion to proximity.” Her arms tightened in a
hard grip at the chair arms, her neck muscles strained. Jason became instantly
worried that something was wrong. “Do you need help? Can I get the nurse?” His
concerned voice carried to her as she lowered her chin to her chest. A low maniacal
chuckle started then, deep in her throat “You can’t help me. They can’t help
me. No one can help me. You see, I was wrong.” Constance Farrell had lowered
her head, Jason did not know who had raised it. Not who had raised the head,
but what. Her face was now the color of burnished metal. Shiny and reflective
it held a quality of strength and age. The eyes that shone from the sockets
were deep black seeming to draw all light into them. An odor of ozone wafted through the small
room and the young physicist knew true terror as the woman he had come to visit
stood. Her movements were no longer stiff. She practically flowed atop legs
that were not in the least human. Bent back and ending in shiny hooves, they
looked almost like the hind legs of a large, muscular bovine. Her forearms had
twisted to masses of sinew ending in sharp talons rather than fingers. As she
spoke, Jason’s stomach tried to revolt as his nostrils were assaulted by a
carrion stench. “ I made the trek out there alright. The problem was in the
details. I could not account for the exotic matter and fluctuating black holes
that live and die so briefly in open space. My pod failed and I was dying. I
was right about life out there, though. They found me and “fixed” me. Sent me
back like some wayward child of their own.” Her laugh was terrible and Jason
felt his bladder give way just a little. “Do you like what they’ve done with
the place?” The creature leapt towards Jason, talons outstretched and eyes
wild. His bladder let the rest of it’s fill out as Jason braced for the impact.
The impact never came. Opening one eye cautiously, he saw that the monster was
suspended mid-leap, the crackle of a stasis field surrounding it. It thrashed
and squirmed against the barrier to no avail. After several minutes it settled
into a resigned pose. Tilting it’s head back she released a high keening wail
that threatened to burst Jason’s eardrums. The sound was horrible and sounded
lost and forlorn.
In the weeks that
followed, the FTL team assigned to work with Jason Kirk noticed a marked
difference. His demeanor was no longer one of apathy and self-importance. He
contributed, encouraged and even began to socialize with his team. By the end
of the year, a bold new theory of instant travel had emerged. A “punch” drive
was developed and practical. It had to be used in short legs of only a few
light years, but with timing and reorientation, the jumps could be safely
maneuvered throughout the local galaxy.
One note of
interest: Jason Kirk, though credited with it’s development, NEVER rode on any
ship containing a punch drive.
I would like a small short story on how FTL engines were made, in connection with all the books. Knowing The Dark Overlord’s style, im sure something terrible happened. I would like to see people being sucked into holes in space, only to return and be totally crackers.
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