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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Eternal Clock

The ticking of the clock reminded me of my own mortality. I glanced out the window of my quarters. Starlight streaked by as we traveled at light speed four. The vacuum of space a few feet away, held at bay by inches of metal and transparent stealium, served to remind me of the truth as well.

"Captain," sounded over the comm.

"Go ahead."

"We're picking up a ship on long-range sensors on an intercept course."

I raised an eyebrow. "Who is it?"


"How long till they reach us?"

"About one hour. Forty-five minutes until we're in communication range."

I thought for three seconds. "Keep me posted if they change course. Captain out."

"Aye, sir."

I rocked back in my chair. Would this be a first encounter or and old friend? Or worse, an old enemy?

"Captain Bay," my own voice call from behind me.

I spun around. Another me, with more gray and wrinkles, stood before me. Different outfit. Same face.

I rose to my feet. "I'd ask who you are, but I think I already know what you'll say. Questions are, how, why, and do I believe you?"

The corners of his mouth turned up. He raised a finger, then walked to the cabin door and locked it. "It might not go over well if I'm found here by your crew."

I noticed the balding spot on the back of his head. I filtered my fingers through mine, pausing at the top of my head. "Let me guess. You're me from the future."

He nodded. "Yes. We need to discuss the approaching ship."

I grinned. "Nice hologram of me. Who's behind this? Is this Dan?"

He clenched his jaw. "Listen. I returned to warn you about that ship. It is a new species. Very hostile. I waited too long to respond. Only a few of us escaped. We've been hostile since then. If you respond first, take out their weapons, you'll have the upper hand."

I rubbed my jaw. "Let's assume you are who you say you are. Did you try to communicate with them?"

"Yes, but the translator didn't recognize their language. While we tried to understand, they fired."

I paced the floor, then turned to face him. "Okay. We'll know soon if your telling the truth. What does this species look like?"

"Small, furry heads. No neck to speak of. Four arms with six fingers on each. Fur all over. Oh yeah, and two big black eyes."

I nodded. "If that's what greets me, I'll know you're from the future. Then I'll shoot first, ask questions later."

He smiled. "Good. Now I'll be able to sleep at night." He held his wrist up, punched a few buttons, and then vanished.

I breathed deep. "So I'll be able to time travel one day. Interesting." But his warning gave me more prep time. I could have missiles loaded and ready to fire before they arrived. Just in case. I reached over to signal Lieutenant Reece in munitions.

"Captain Bay," my voice echoed in the cabin again.

I turned my head to see myself. "Forget something?"

He waved his hands. "Don't attack them. That didn't work. Their shielding is much stronger than ours. We barely made a dent before their weapons ripped our ship apart."

I feared asking this question. "That's twice now you've made it through the destruction of your...I mean, my ship. I thought a captain was supposed to go down with his ship."

"The crew has this mutinous plan to save their captain upon destruction of the ship. Watch out for the doctor's hypo-spray." He winked.

I leaned back. "So now what?"

He stared out the view port. "We must be trespassing in their space. Would be best to turn and run."

I smiled. "Sounds logical, but maybe you don't want me to see them and learn you're lying."

He turned and met my eyes. "You can wait until you see them, but by then it'll be too late. Your call, but I'd rather not have to make another trip back to convince you again."

I ran options through my brain. "Are you able to translate their language in your time?"


"Then you translate for us now."

He shook his head. "You're crew would know I'm not you. Too much age difference."

"I'll tell them I grayed my hair and plucked out some in the back."

"They'll buy that?"

"Probably not."

He pointed at me. "Try running. If that doesn't work, I'll be back."

"I'll give it due consideration." If he was me, he knew that meant I'd do it.

He let out a breath. "Thank you." He pecked away on his "watch" and vanished.

I waited five minutes. He didn't return. Must have worked. I reached for the comm to call helm.

"Captain Bay, it didn't work. Their ships are much faster than ours. They caught up and destroyed us."

I stood and stepped toward him. "So fighting doesn't work. Running doesn't work. What's left?"

He rubbed his forehead. "Not much. Who knew polluting the timeline was so hard. It's like God's going to have this turn out the same no matter what."

"I have an idea."

His eyes jerked open as my decision became his future.

I swung my fist hard upon his left temple. The spot I always protected in my boxing days. He collapsed like a sack of sand onto the floor. I slipped his time-watch off and stored it in my vault.

I dragged him into the captain's personal shuttle connected to the captain's quarters, programmed the greeting, "This is Ambassador Bay, I come in peace to make friends," to broadcast in all languages in the database. Surely if they've gotten around, they'd recognize one of them. I set the autopilot on a countdown, and exited the shuttle.

I hit the comm button. "Ensign Jones, I'm sending my shuttle to the oncoming ship as a decoy. As soon as it departs, turn the ship around and leave the system at full speed."

"Acknowledged, sir."

Docking clamps clunked open. Thrusters fired. Through the window, the wing-tipped craft glided away.

I saluted. "Good luck in retirement, Ambassador Bay." Sending someone who knew the alien's language in a non-threatening ship provided the best opportunity of first contact. Meanwhile, when my turn came to go back in time, I'd pass. The timeline was effectively polluted.

The ticking of the clock reminded me of my own mortality. And an eternity that would not be denied. No matter how hard we sought to change it.

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