May 22, 2019

Free Fiction Friday: Exeligmos Part 2

We’re just one week out now from the first and only total solar eclipse of 2015. Can’t wait that long? Then travel through space and time in our chapter two installment of our sci-fi tale Exeligmos. Chapter 1 is also available online, and we’ll have the conclusion up next week!

Exeligmos chapter 2

by

David A. Dickinson

You can travel the length and breadth of our galaxy and not find the unique alignment in space and time that our own Moon offers. Some of my brethren have given up career and family to sit on the surface of Enceladus and watch Saturn’s Rings shimmer and drift over a pale distant Sun overhead, or catch Phobos transit the Sun as seen from the surface of Mars. Perhaps, the transits and eclipses of a terrestrial variety seem pedestrian, and dare I say… boring in this context to some. Me, I don’t try to guess the psychology of such benighted souls… if you get yours collecting tawdry 18th century postcards or by performing feats of astronomical improbability, hey, it’s alright by me.

Anyhow, Exeligmos suffered from lackluster numbers, at best. It was a means to an end, an eclipse-addict’s way to buy more “shadow-time” and hopefully extend a lingering life in totality just that much longer. When my agent suggested that I should offer discounts for school expeditions, or provide nature tours to some of the terra-formed worlds on the side, I wanted to hear none of it. I simply decided to raise prices for our select clientele, folks that could at least appreciate the glory of an eclipse, Earthbound or otherwise…

That’s when a fellow eclipse chaser approached me with a proposition. Graham Proper had made his fortune in mining Oort Cloud comets and now made a hobby of chasing after eclipses, terrestrial and otherwise. As you can guess, it’s a small community. When someone comes up with a new idea or bizarre astronomical event to chase, the game is on. But Proper had a unique proposal to “up the game,” and access to just the kind of juice we needed to pull such a thing off…

“So, you’ve heard about the breakthroughs coming out of Hyper Spatial Research Inc. on Groombridge 13?” He asked me on a return tour from Enceladus one day. I replied that I hadn’t, but I knew Hyper Spatial was involved in work on what was rumored as the tachyon drive.

Proper leaned in closer and lowered his voice to a whisper. “Well, the tachyon drive is a reality. No more one-way relativistic trips thru time. I’ve got a private version parked out on Dysnomia, if you’d like to see it…

My head swam with the possibilities, as I’m sure that Proper’s already had. Time travel, at will. Oh, I knew the fine line between a miracle and a mundane stunt would be crossed soon enough. In short order, people would be using it to have sex with their grandmother or become 21st century millionaires or change what they had for breakfast… I know how people are. One day, a new technology is amazing, and the next, the control stylus is exactly the wrong shade of green. But Proper and I were men of the same breed. We saw the true potential power of time travel. We could finally witness all those historical astronomical events we wanted to see, first hand.  Want to witness all of the eclipses in a Callipic cycle? Not a problem. Want to see a transit of Mercury & Venus in front of the Sun thousands of years hence that occurs at the same time? Type it in and press a button. One could even journey back almost a billion years to stand amid the swamp and muck of our single-celled ancestors to witness the very 1st annular eclipse, or journey 600 billion years hence to watch the final total solar eclipse as witnessed from the Earth as the Moon slowly recedes away…

But weeks later as I approached Proper’s private research station on Dysnomia, I had my dream trip firmly in mind and a way to resurrect the near-bankrupt Exeligmos.

Looking back now, I should have heard the persistent voice of the shadow-addiction talking. That’s what an obsession does; it makes you see the universe from its own selfish point of view to a threshold where it’s so ingrained into your life that you refuse to believe that it even exists. It’s a really neat trick, the ultimate vanishing act. My eclipse-chasing exploits through the time would just be an extension of my obsessed life chasing the shadow through space.  You can’t explain it, that indelible mark that the shadow puts on your soul. Suddenly the rest of your beleaguered existence looks pallid in comparison. Of course, we didn’t have a total grip as to what kind of world we might exit into, in the past or especially in the future… would there be apes or angels? Would we be affecting the laws of causality?  Or would we fall prey to something as stupid as the lack of immunity to the bacteria of the age? No, the rules and regulations of time travel would come later. Someone eventually has to tell you that you can’t just go back and assassinate Hitler, or have sex with your great-great grandparents. Then the party is over. Besides, we cared for none of that… the call of the umbral abyss was enough for us.

With a grim determination, I aligned the array copied by Proper from the plans stolen from Hyper Spatial to send me further and ever further back. Alignment for travel in the last few thousand years was not too difficult; things shift around in the solar system and the galactic plane, but compensating for this shift and finding my way back to Earth in the last few  millennia or so was a breeze. I knew that traveling further back would make finding Sol a tad more difficult as it swung around the galactic plane and was tossed about through subsequent stellar encounters.

To be continued…

Check this space for the conclusion next week, or read Exeligmos and other fine sci-fi tales online in their entirety.

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