“The time is exactly 12:00 Military Time. I am Captain Steward Miner of the research ship Tesla witnessing the exchange of items to confirm that we have arrived back at Geosynch One within twelve hours.”
Dr. Gregory handed a friend aboard the space station Yukon an old-fashioned book written by Stephen Hawkings back in the early 21st century. In exchange, his friend handed him a model of the Millennium Falcon to bring back to the station above the earth at geosynchronous orbit. The camera showed close-up views of both objects. If the crew of the Tesla could fly back to Geosynch One within twelve hours from the Kuyper Belt, the designer of the ship would prove that the speed of light was no barrier just like the speed of sound was no barrier nearly two centuries in the past.
“I know you’re pressed for time, but I am grateful to be a part of history if you accomplish your goal, Captain, Mr. Tanner,” said Colonel Grey who commanded the space station Yukon that had been left in the Kuyper Belt by the Ortasions over 40,000 years ago. “Have a safe trip back.”
“I paid nearly $7 billion for my ship,” said the designer, multi-billionaire Jeff Tanner. “It better arrive safely.”
After a few chuckles, the crew headed back to the Tesla and immediately took off for earth that was twelve light hours away. To make sure there was a continuous video feed between both stations, Geosynch One used a tight transmission beam which it generated after it had a clear shot at Yukon which in turn used a tight transmission beam to communicate back to the station above the earth. If the Tesla could arrive back at Geosynch One before the exchange was witnessed, it would prove the speed of light was relatively insignificant and a new era of science and technology would begin. The era of hyperlight physics will have begun.
The crew of the Tesla was sparse. There was Captain Miner who had been in the Space Force for his entire military career. He had championed the work of Jeff Tanner who had designed weapons and transportation systems for the Space Force for over two decades. At the same time, Jeff Tanner had prospected a few planetoids in the Kuyper Belt and had a dozen mines in the system supplying Earth with over 10 million tons of raw materials every month. It was only a matter of time before he became the first trillionaire.
Dr. William Gregory had for the last thirty years taught physics at UCLA and insisted Einstein and nearly every scientist and engineer in the world were correct that the speed of light was indeed the universal speed limit. He was invited to be a part of the crew of the Tesla to keep the rest of the crew honest. His career was on the line. He threatened to resign from the Physics Department of UCLA if the Tesla exceeded the speed of light. That is why he was putting his life on the line by accepting a bomb from his friend that was set to explode within twelve hours. If the Tesla didn’t make it back to Geosynch One within twelve hours, the bomb would go off. Dr. Gregory hoped people would assume attempting to exceed the speed of light was a death sentence and no one would dare try to exceed it in the future.
The final person aboard the Tesla was Marge Seller, a science and technology writer for “Popular Science.” She had reported on space technology for two decades and had spent a lot of time in the Kuyper Belt reporting on work being done out there. She appreciated the work the Space Force and other space agencies had done out there to keep the region of space from becoming a 22nd century version of California and Alaska during their gold rush eras of the 19th century.
Captain Miner was a bit frustrated having to make his way past a bunch of space rocks and planetoids at the relatively slow speed of 3/4 light speed. Jeff Tanner studied the sensor screen and pointed out to the captain the path the ship should go.
“I know it’s not a direct route, but it is a clear one if we go maybe 150,000 miles out of our way. We’ll be able to achieve full speed faster. Maybe if you discharge the field a few times to move some obstructions we’ll have a clear shot sooner.”
“What about the fuel supply?” the captain asked.
“We could fly past the sun and reach the other side of the belt with the amount of fuel we have in the reactor.”
Jeff looked back at Dr. Gregory sleeping and holding the model he had been handed back at Yukon. The reporter was in the toilet at the back of the cabin.
“He looks like he doesn’t have a care in the universe,” said the ship designer. “Someone did a good job on the model.”
After discharging the field a couple times, the screen showed the clearest path to Geosynch One. The captain punched in some numbers on the speed controls and within seconds the repulsion-drive engines increased the energy bundle output to 250,000 per second. To save some energy, the captain pulsed the engine for a couple seconds three times. The speed increased to 95% of light speed. The internal field suspension system in the cabin kept the crew members in their seats and unaware of the increase in speed.
“What are the maximums for this craft?” the captain asked the designer.
“I designed it to do half a million bundles per second at least 10,000 times before the fuel is spent.”
“What if I discharge the exterior field first before discharging the interior field bundles.”
Jeff thought about it for a few seconds before saying, “It just might work. Just don’t do it too often because the emitters weren’t designed to be discharged too often.”
“I’ll do it a couple times to see if it will help,” said the captain.
“Just don’t break my baby.”
The captain punched some more numbers into the speed controls and set the force field that surrounded the ship to discharge a millionth of a second before the interior field bundles were thrust out of the engines. The first time, the speed was boosted to an astounding 17 times the speed of light. The captain and the designer smiled from ear to ear.
“Let’s see if I can boost the speed a little more,” said the captain.
“Isn’t this enough? We’re going to be back at the station in less than an hour,” the designer complained.
“Yeah I know. But I want to push this thing to its limits if I can.”
“If you break it it will take you several lifetimes to pay for the damage.”
The captain smiled and said, “I’ll tell Uncle Sam to float me a loan. He’s good for it.”
The captain punched in some more numbers and in a couple seconds the ship was thrown forward at a velocity few thought was possible. In less than a minute, the Tesla would be back at Geosynch One.
Jeff’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped open.
“I knew I should have done more work on the reverse thrusters.”
“Now’s not the time to tell me that.”
“Activate the reverse thrusters to maximum.”
The captain punched in some numbers into the speed controls to produce the maximum amount of reverse thrust. The velocity was reduced significantly. But Geosynch One was coming up fast and it looked like the Tesla was going to either crash into it or have to fly beyond it and risk being drawn into the sun if the ship didn’t slow down in time.
The science reporter approached the two men up front and asked, “Any problems up here, guys?”
“Nothing we can’t handle, ma’am,” lied the captain.
She glanced at the designer and asked, “Is he feeding me some bull?”
“I thought so. Isn’t that Geosynch One dead ahead?”
“Yeah,” said the captain.
The trio viewed the station on the screen and seconds later the Tesla was heading in the direction of Venus. The gravity of earth had slowed the ship a bit. But it looked like it would take the gravity of Venus and maybe Mercury to slow the ship enough to allow it to go back to Geosynch One.
The Tesla slipped past Venus a minute later and in a little more than a minute would be near Mercury. But would the ship be slowed enough to circle back to Geosynch One within the twelve hour time period.
The reporter looked down at the monitor that show the speed of the ship and was shocked.
“Is that correct?”
“Sure is,” said Jeff.
“What if Mercury can’t slow us down enough and we plunge into the sun?”
“We won’t feel a thing,” said the captain.
A blank stare came to Jeff’s face as he said, “speed up to maximum.”
“What? Are you insane?” asked the captain.
“Yeah. You want to die faster?” asked the reporter.
“Head for the upper atmosphere of the sun at maximum speed and let the gravity slow you as you circle it. When you round the sun–hit it now.”
The captain punched in some numbers and seconds later the Tesla was headed toward the corona of the sun. Seconds later, the Tesla was nearly slammed into by a sun flare. But due to the tremendous speed of the ship, a hyperlight speed reaction happened and the sun flare slammed back into the sun and caused a sunspot larger than Saturn.
The Tesla slowed as it circled the sun. But it was still coming in hot toward Earth.
“Flip the ship around, now!” screamed Jeff.
The captain complied. But the ship began to tumble until the captain regained control near Venus. By using the main engines for reverse thrust, the ship slowed until it was at a manageable sublight speed. The captain flipped the ship again and approached Geosynch One minutes before the twelve hour time limit was reached.
Dr Gregory was still sound asleep when Jeff shook him awake. He was startled because he thought he would hopefully never awake. The crew members walked from the space dock and through the hallway to the main conference room of the station.
“Why so nervous, doc?” the reporter asked the physicist.
He clutched the model to his chest and said, “Well, it looks like I’m going to have to find another job. Those two men in front of us have ended my career.”
The physicist glanced at a clock in the hallway. It was 23:56 GMT.
The quartet entered the conference room and were given a standing ovation by everyone inside. They were watching the screen that was yet to show Dr. Gregory making the exchange of items. He set the model in the middle of the conference table and watched it nervously as Jeff spoke to the world from the podium.
“Good evening, world. This has been the adventure of a lifetime. Ever since I was a kid in Indiana I told people I wanted to be the father of hyperlight physics. They thought I was crazy. I knew they were wrong and today I proved it. My ship is more than a research ship named after someone I have admired for most of my life. It will give birth to…..the future. I’m not trying to belitttle Scotty of ‘Star Trek.’ But the Enterprise is a hunk of junk. I can design ships that will make that antiquated vessel look like a rowboat. They will be able to reach the proverbial unreachable star. And it won’t be centuries from now. It will happen in my lifetime.
“I don’t want to toot my own horn. I’ll let others do that. I sort of feel like Einstein after he came up with the theory of relativity. But then again, he never thought what we did was possible. So I guess you could say I am beyond Einstein.
“I know you reporters are dying to ask me some questions. Have at it.”
The reporters shouted at the designer questions. He smiled and pointed at a woman in the middle of the pack.
“Thank-you. This is Alice Kraus of ABC News. Weren’t you scared out there? No one has ever attempted to exceed the speed of light. Why did you think you could do it?”
“There were a few times out there that……who am I kidding? I was scared nearly shitless out there. We almost plunged into the sun because we missed–”
“There’s a bomb in the middle of the table,” said Dr. Gregory.
Will someone pick up the bomb and save the station from destruction? Is there enough time? Maybe you can find that out by finishing the story.