By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 1809
Wiping tiny beads of perspiration from his forehead, Jimmy stepped back and viewed his device, smiling, happy with the end product of his hard research and experiments.
A thick platform of titanium was secured on the concrete floor of the laboratory. On it rested a cylinder of heavy glass, domed at the top, ten feet high and five feet in diameter, containing a mass of scientific devices and his ingenious inventions. The most noticeable element was a cylinder of fluorescent green metal at the base of the apparatus, seemingly in contact with the platform on which the device was standing. Four compact units of machinery flanked the cylinder, connected to it, and to each other, by a network of tiny wires. No parts which might move or rotate were visible; the device ran on untapped forces greater by far than those applied through any mechanics seen to date.
With this, the product of many years’ labor, Jimmy was about to conquer the realm of time! With steps that were eager, yet a bit fearfully, he approached his creation. He had but to adjust a finely graduated dial to project himself and the device ahead in time—a year, five years, a hundred, or a million—there was no limit save his own imagination. On his trial flight he planned to travel to the year 3000.
The principle of the Time Splicer hinged about Jimmy’s discovery of splice crystals, the perfect substance, made by draining the energy of atoms. An atom of ordinary matter is composed of negative and positive charges of electricity—electrons and positrons—the energies of the two balancing each other. Both are particles of pure energy, with practically no mass. Mass is given to matter by the neutron, a heavy, inert particle that is found in the nucleus of the atom, one with each positron.
Jimmy had found a means of removing all the energy of the electrons and positrons, leaving an incredibly dense residue of splice crystals, held in a tremendously rigid state by the gravitational attraction of its component particles for each other. He had released atomic energy, of course, in draining the energy from the atoms, but he treated that as a mere side product; his goal had been splice crystals. Absolutely inactive chemically, reflecting all known radiations, the “crystal” possessed properties even Jimmy, its creator, could scarcely comprehend.
Relativists have suggested that around the heavier stars time progresses at a slower rate, because the immense masses splice both space and time. Jimmy had invented splice crystals with this in mind. Though the total mass of the splice crystals plate was negligible, it was so highly concentrated that near it was produced an almost visible space-time splice. Light rays passing above it were refracted because their time rate—and therefore their speed—had been changed momentarily.
Just as a body in space cannot move unless it has something to push against, so a body cannot travel in time—change its time rate—unless it has a foothold on that medium. The time splice produced by splice crystals was the foothold; traveling along and against it, the Time Splicer could move forward in time! It could not travel into the past, for the splice crystals plate had to exist in all the ages traveled, and it had not existed before Jimmy had made it.
Of course, the scientist had kept his discoveries secret; time travel and atomic power were too great to be let loose upon the world of 1942. A scion of wealthy and indulgent parents, he had been able to devote all his time and a considerable sum of money for developing his ideas. The project of conquering time would have been too great a task for any other mortal, but Jimmy’s brand of inventive genius, which may come but once in the history of the human race, had enabled him to come within sight of success.
Opening a section in the side of the glass, he stepped into the cylinder. With difficulty, he steadied his trembling fingers and grasped the little knob that was to start the device moving along the time splice. He turned a dial, checking the reading carefully, then depressed the fateful switch.
A spectator, entering upon the tableau at that moment, would have seen a weird blue glow of electricity, heard a piercing screech, and seen the cylinder, with a bent, white-smocked figure inside, swiftly fade and vanish. A wave of air, rushing to fill the suddenly-formed vacuum, would have propelled him toward an empty platform of silvery metal.
Jimmy’s device had altered its time rate. It was still in the same spot, but it was invisible and intangible, as it would have been in another dimension.
Within the Time Splicer, Jimmy reeled from a wave of nausea that enveloped him. Through the glass walls of the cylinder he saw the laboratory’s electric-light bulbs suddenly turn blue, then violet, finally disappearing altogether, displaced by an abysmal blackness. To his senses the world outside had speeded up, and ordinary light rays from it, striking his eyes, were changed to frequencies too great to be visible. Soon the rays would change from ultraviolet to X rays, finally to cosmics—but there was no danger; they were not sufficiently powerful to do harm. Besides, he was in a different part of the time dimension and doubted whether anything from the outside world could have affected him.
One exultant thought beat at his brain: the device had worked! He was traveling in time!
In the basement level of Brisbane, under that mile-high structure of steel and glass, Candice worked incessantly. The object of her labors, a transparent cellosheen cube seven feet on an edge, was slowly nearing completion under the twenty-sixth century scientist’s nimble hands.
There was an indefinable air of great age about the laboratory, caused perhaps, by the seamed and cracked appearance of the concrete floor. In the middle was imbedded a round platform of brilliant metal, about six feet in diameter. The history of that object was strange indeed.
Some one in the latter part of the twentieth century had discovered the platform, which had been located in an abandoned laboratory belonging to one Jimmy, who had disappeared. The thing rested on a reinforced concrete base that went down to the solid rock of the earth’s crust. During the centuries it had lain there, never changing. Scientists had tried to analyze the strange substance, only to find that it resisted their best efforts. They could not make it combine with any substance; heat had no effect upon it; they could neither raise nor decrease its temperature! They knew it was very dense, but they could not find its specific gravity, being unable to cut the slightest piece off it, or even scratch it, with their tools.
Candice had stumbled upon one of its peculiar properties quite by accident. She had found that the strange substance spliced time to a noticeable degree! She had noticed the refraction of light passing over it, and, by successive experiments, had proved that this refraction could be due to no other cause than a considerable space-time splice. And now, on January 01, 2069, she was about to utilize it as a means of propelling a device backward through time! Her time device, the cellosheen cube, was at last completed.
Candice’s aim was to solve a mystery that had always intrigued him: the mystery of the great Brisbane explosion of 2053. On April 1st of that year, at one o’clock in the morning, the city had been awakened by a mighty explosion that had occurred in the middle of it, breaking nearly every pane of glass within miles.
It had not been an earthquake, merely one unheralded explosion that had shattered the eardrums of many who escaped with their lives. Of course the cry of “Terrorism!” had sprung up, but there had been no terrorist to fight—none who could have committed the wanton act of destruction. Thirteen years had elapsed since that date; yet the cause of the explosion had never been discovered. It remained one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the world.
It was Candice’s plan to travel backward in time to March 31st 2052, the day before the explosion, and attempt to discover the reason for the disaster. The medium of time travel—the mysterious metal plate—had existed long before the explosion, and she could easily reach this date by following the time splice that had existed through the centuries. On arriving at the correct time, he would not have to scout far in her search, for his time splicer was located somewhere near the spot where the strange disaster had taken place.
The scientist had invited several of her colleagues to watch the beginning of her journey into the unknown. After acknowledging the chorus of good wishes, she stepped into her device and jerked the switch that was to send her hurtling back through the ages.
The years ticked off Candice’s monitor with clocklike precision. 2069—2066—2063—2050—— She tensed, waiting for the moment when the automatic control would stop the device near noon, on March 31st 2052.
She could see nothing through the transparent walls of the cube, for she had completely reversed his time rate, and was invisible and intangible to the outside world.
The dial reached 2052; the finer meters crept backward through the months—December—August—June——
Jimmy, of the twentieth century, was using the time splice to propel him ahead in time. Candice of the same century was using the same splice of a later date to push his device backward. Their paths intersected at the midpoint like a train crash!
For one instant both devices were in the same space at the same time. The time splice bent under the momentary strain, and instantly they materialized above the platform, being thrown into a normal time rate by the collision. When a fundamental law of physics is violated, all the forces of the universe are exerted to make the offending matter conform. The time devices could not exist in the same space at the same time rate—yet they were so placed. Therefore they expanded—violently.
Candice had found the cause of the Brisbane explosion, but she was destined never to know it. And Jimmy was never to reach his goal, for both he and Candice had been converted into scattered atoms.
The great inertia of the splice crystals plate saved it from being driven into its concrete base. The force of the explosion traveled upward and sideways. The plate lay there, buried under the wreckage, waiting patiently for a Candice, who had not yet been born, but who had already died!
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