Can Prototype Only Mean One?: a short story by: GF Willmetts.

October 31, 2021 | By | Reply More

An audacious plan to make the fastest ever spacecraft and how to learn from mistakes at the same time. Getting a faster-than-light spacecraft right the first time was never expected to be perfect but we would want to know what needed to be sorted. The shakedown flight would be able to send a reply back at the speed it was travelling at. However, the return trip would be coasting to slow down so the message would be faster and arrive back before they left and another team would make another version of the prototype so we wouldn’t create any time paradox. We aren’t stupid after all. That one would be sent out and the process repeated. As this second mission was being completed before the first went out, we would use the same flight crew and keep doing it.

All right, so how can a spacecraft coast to slow down. God bless Newton’s first law that things will move at the speed it reaches unless something else affected it. Our first flights hadn’t reached ftl yet but we could swing out before the Kuiper Belt and back and slow down on the way using the big planets and the sun as external forces, just enough to send the messages as the spaceship kept through this parabola path as it swung out again.

How do I know this? Largely because I was already working on the first flight information long before we knew we were extending into space. As chief engineer I was picked out early when we received the extended message from space from a rocket that we didn’t know had been made yet. There was some damage to the message but we put that down to not knowing what was going on. Some of us thought we were effectively becoming slaves to the mission. The other missions were still ahead of us and all we could do was watch as other teams across the world worked on future prototypes although our own seemed to vanish after the message was sent out.

A totally insane plan and as we analysed the information sent back, there was still a puzzle why didn’t they supply other data about our world situation so we could do work on that so weren’t left idle. You know, things vital like global warming and the ever increasing fuel crisis and changes. Discretely across the world, said suggestions was added but as the messages from further prototypes came back, that area was also garbled. We could make our rockets but something prevented us altering our own future but that wasn’t the point of the exercise. There was a need to get things right.

It was important to send the same crew each time as they weren’t supposed to be on the Earth and it was an important selection to stay as close to future events as possible. We knew each message was likely to be new and not over-lapping because we would have already had the previous message. Each prototype from our perspective was the first and so we could build it running, knowing that at least it could fly. Getting the acceleration right was the least of our worries, it was more a case of working out various ways for it to stop. We needed a selection of these because we would have no way of knowing what was found at the end of the trip. Our sight of other star systems was centuries if not millennia old although we didn’t know how far out the spacecraft was going each time. Each time it was going too fast to track.

Don’t think this ad hoc system was perfect. A couple times, we think, members of the crew were injured or dead before take-off but were on-board regardless with vocal software to send back the information we needed. How do I know this? I’m the only one with full access to the information coming back to Earth and even I felt it was being rewritten from time to time.

From a budget point of view, we only ever created one spacecraft so it was a controlled cost.

But what of the ftl prototype? What did it do after it sent the information back to us on Earth. It kept travelling to the next star, Proxima Centauri. I mean, why send it off and then bring it back to Earth. That would create too much of a paradox, especially as the crew were still on Earth.

Did I say ‘it’? I meant all of them. We seemed to have created a fleet of them with the same crew many times over as each briefly intersected in Earth orbit before heading off when we had got beyond light speed.

What we hadn’t anticipated was Einstein had been fiddling with us as well. Was that the clue in his playing the fiddle? We had played with time and it had played with us back. We hadn’t created multiple clones, just many versions of the same crew. At least that was the current theory going around.

Of course, for all we really knew it was really just one spacecraft we were tracking and our instruments could only track as they entered deep space. Time’s funny like that.



© GF Willmetts 2021

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Category: Short fiction

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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