Authors: Joseph Choi
© 2013-2014 JChoi Productions
Table of Contents
This is for the kids of the next generation, who are inheriting a world on the brink. Gaze into the abyss unyieldingly, but don’t look down over the edge. And as good old Peppy might advise: never give up. Trust your instincts.
By Lillian R. Hermes, Age 6
Power is never to be taken lightly
Time travel gives one the ultimate authority
It is my responsibility to observe and safeguard the people of Earth
Involve oneself only when necessary
Never use time travel for selfish reasons
Avoid crossing paths with your past self
Warp prior to 200,000 B.C. at one’s own risk
Protect the human race, even if it costs you everything
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” - Nelson Mandela
Eighty thousand miles above the planet Earth, there is a time machine. Her name is the
, and she carries the memories of innumerable universes, each journey a far-out chronicle in the oft-disputed annals of inter-dimensional travel.
Approaching her from orbit in the midst of the Earth’s radiation belt, she sparkles like a crystal rose, shimmering petals embracing the sun’s energies.
Circling the world on her continuing quest, the blossoming
weaves through unending fabrics of realities. While she doesn’t quite exist yet, she has always existed. She’s seen times long before the beginnings of life on Earth, and she might very well be there when it reaches its end.
This is not the story of the good ship
, but it is
story. It is a partial chronicle of the
, those few whose lives have been bound to her fate, whether by chance or design.
Sky Admiral Lillian Rachel Hermes’ tale has many beginnings and endings, but every account must start somewhere. Perhaps the easiest place to begin would be the day that defined the rest of her life – the day she became the great steward of the
Hermes Inter-Space-Time Mission
April 13, 2087
Lily ran her hand through the planet, resizing the spinning blue-green hologram from the scale of a marble to that of a beach ball, and back again. She did this in part because it looked cool, but mostly to avoid her assigned studies on Earth’s history, the girl’s least favorite subject. As written by fellow Earthlings, it was dreary, complicated, and filled with contradictions to the
records. Part of her assignment was to explain how historical accounts differed from the observed data, and why. She considered it tedious stuff.
It wasn’t always so dull. For the most part, she was given the freedom to explore and learn at her own pace, but history was an exception. Mom and Dad always had words for the seven-year-old if she failed to make satisfactory progress. They deemed it necessary for a child living so near yet so far from Terra to understand where she had come from, and to think of it as her second home. So far, the experiment had mixed results.
Taking off her haptic gloves and abandoning the learning console, Lily stole out of her chamber to the observation window, pondering on the panorama that greeted her upon each waking cycle – the blue, white, and green sphere she hoped to visit someday. Just one trip to planet Earth would be better than a thousand history lessons. But her parents donned sad expressions each time she’d broached the topic with them.
The world isn’t ready for us yet, kiddo,
they’d say grimly.
It’s not safe.
Of course, that was far from what little Lily wanted to hear, and it wasn’t at all fair. But Daddy said most of the beautiful things that’d existed on Earth were gone now, lost to time, or to the destructive machines of civilization. Surely with the
at her family’s disposal, nothing should have been beyond their reach, but the family’s few trips through history, pre-history, and the days beyond focused on studying the planet and its people.
And Lily had one word for that kind of stuff.
She glanced down the
long hallway and calculated her chances of successfully sneaking into the kitchen to liberate Mom’s blueberry muffins. They were pretty righteous. Before Lillian could hatch her plan, however, the blaring emergency alarm startled her to attention.
Maybe I should have kept those thoughts to myself
, wondered the girl, sprinting into her parents’ room.
She tapped her watch’s comm. link.
“Um, Mom, could we do this drill later? I’m hungry!”
A shiver ran up her spine.
This shouldn’t be happening.
She scanned the empty curved hallways.
Get a grip, Lily
This is just another test
. Normally, Mom would find and calmly take her to the bridge, where the three might laugh about how long it took Lily to get out of bed and how they’d have been devoured by invading aliens long ago.
But for the first time, Lily dashed off to the bridge alone, fending off her suffocating fears with the confidence that she’d find her parents there.
And sure enough, they were hunched over the primary controls, deep in argument. Upon seeing her distressed daughter enter the circular atrium, Elizabeth ran over and held her close.
“Shhh, baby. Back to your room; everything’s fine.”
Thirty-nine year-old Elizabeth Hermes’ calm, collected voice brought warmth, but Lily felt her delicate hands shake ever so slightly during the embrace. She had a distressing feeling that this time, things weren’t going to be fine.
“Mom, what’s happening?” she ventured.
A rare video transmission was trying to hail them on the big screen, but Lily noted with increasing distress that neither of her parents wanted to accept the call. Shipments from the surface had ceased years ago. Daddy paced furiously.
“Rutger, update me,” called Carl Hermes, scratching his stubbly chin.
“Master Carl, our firewalls are nearly breached,” The ship’s computer began. “They’re attempting to extract classified files. I recommend freezing all data drives.”
Rutger sounded another alarm. “Perimeter induction buses two to five compromised. Plasma shields at low power. I approximate seven minutes before they can board the
“Polarity disruptors. How could they have found us?” Elizabeth asked in disbelief.
“One of the investors might have talked, under duress,” Carl mumbled. “But finding us, that’s another thing entirely. It’s as your Dad predicted. They’ve come for the Temporal Drive.”
Lily realized with shock that the Temporal Travel Toggle had been pulled. She knew from experience that the reactor needed fifteen minutes to ‘warm up’. The timer read: twelve minutes and seventeen seconds to SpaceTime Warp Initiation.
“M-Mommy, where are we going?”
What followed was worse than a grim pronouncement. It was dead silence. The longest ten seconds of young Lillian’s life thus far.
“Honey, there’s no time to explain,” replied Elizabeth as a shadow crept across her face.
Lily turned to the window, and her heart skipped a beat.
The imposing hunk of metal blotted out the sun. Massive turrets turned directly towards the station. A large black, blue, and red flag, with the words
UAA Destroyer 1446
, glimmered on its hull.
one-way windows hid the family from sight, but Lily grabbed onto her mother’s arm all the same.
And more were coming. Blips on the Holo-sphere registered eleven more ships rapidly closing from every direction.
The call continued to ring.
“Are they from Earth?” Lily asked.
“Yes,” Carl replied, working furiously to secure their data banks. “Now that the Alliance won the surface war, honey, their higher-ups think they can take our home away.”
“But you won’t let them, right, Dad?”
Lost in his work as usual, Carl paid her no heed. Elizabeth put her hands on Lily’s shoulders and got down on one knee to address her daughter.
“Lily, tell me what you remember about the solar flare.”
“U-um, according to our time probe, in one hundred and thirty five years, Earth will be scorched barren.”
“Right-o. That’s why we’re here. Your great-grandfather’s dream was for his family to protect all life on Earth, and to ensure that humankind extends its reach to the stars.”
Lily wondered why Mom was having her recite truths she knew by heart. If she’d continued that line of thought, the answer would have been terrifying, but Elizabeth’s comforting embrace gave the child enough courage to keep her chin up, if just barely.
“Space colonization, I get it. Mom, please. If I just knew what’s going on, I could help, maybe--”
“Love, I don’t know myself. It’s--”
“Get her out of sight! They’re about to force their comms through!”
Noticing that Elizabeth was frozen stiff, Carl scooped up Lily and carried her off to the engine control room, a heavily plated, rotating chamber that circled the radioactive core at the very heart of the
“Lily, baby, being born on this station, you don’t have an ID chip. There’s no way they even know you exist, and it’s better to keep it that way.”
She was speechless. Just a few hours ago, they were immersed in one of her favorite astronomy documentaries, a holographic feature that took them all over the galaxy in their pajamas. Now she was about to be locked away, something that had never happened before.
Carl took her tiny palms in his. Though just a year older than his wife, his hands were leathery and worn from the stress and toil the couple had long endured.
“Whatever happens, don’t you leave this room until the Warp completes.”
By now, Lily couldn’t hold back the tears. She grabbed onto her Daddy’s turtleneck sweater and wouldn’t let go.
“Shh, it’s going to be okay. Your Mom and I just need to take care of some unfinished business.”
It was a lie, and they both knew it. But it gave her some relief. He took the black master key and its lanyard off his neck and passed them onto hers, brushing aside her shoulder-length hair to adjust the strap.
is under your protection for the meantime. You’re in charge of the system.”
“You’re strong, brave, wise. You’re an amazing girl and you’re the light of my life. If… if somehow we don’t come back, never forget your oath. And don’t attempt the mission. Don’t even think about it, at least not until you’re old enough, okay?”
His piercing eyes forced the point home. “We just want you to live. I love you.”
Carl embraced her, stood, and left. The hatch closed shut, locked.
Lily tried to calm her breathing. Pacing didn’t work.
They’re in trouble. I have to do something
She pulled a stool up to the primary console and plunged the master key into the control port.
“Rutger, show me the live feeds.”
“Miss Lily, I am currently engaged,” Rutger intoned.
“Now, Rutger! Show me!”
A holographic, real-time tableau of the station materialized. Lily selected the bridge and watched in agony as the invaders’ call forced through.
UAA Destroyer 1446
. Station commander, respond.”
to UAA military vessel,” called Carl through gritted teeth. “Your ship has destroyed our property and trespassed within this station’s operating space. This is a serious breach of our rights under Common Law.”
On the screen before him, a gravely serious officer slunk into his seat and tightened his suspenders.
“Professors Hermes, I presume. Captain Lowe Black, speaking now on behalf of planet Earth. Under the provisions of the United Amero Alliance Aerospace Protection Act, we’re authorized to board and search your vessel out of concern for Terrestrial security. You have eight minutes to eject via emergency pods.”
“I do not recognize yours or anyone else’s authority here. Your masters don’t speak for the Earth.”
“Seven minutes, fifty seconds, Professor. Refuse, and we’ll draw you in and board your vessel with extreme prejudice. Our ID scanners show two of you on the bridge. Have you any others?”
“Don’t you ignore me!” Carl pressed. “This tyranny, this… farce will not stand. I’m giving you one chance. Leave now.”
The middle-aged man cleared his parched throat and continued, grumbling at Elizabeth. “You need to keep your husband on a leash, Professor. We’ve spared no expense in tracking your great-grandfather’s monumental project. Did you honestly think you could conceal such an experiment from us?”
“No, Captain, but I’d expected the UAA to have the civility to keep its hands off an internationally backed, privately funded, and completely legal research venture. Carl and myself are sole proprietors of Paradoxical Patents, Incorporated. Eighty years of work and no small fortune – that’s four generations worth of dreams – led to this mission, and its continued operation is vital for the survival of our species. If you could just connect me to your commanding officer--”
“No can do. As much as we appreciate your ancestor’s contributions, that goes against my orders. Clock’s ticking.”