Relieved as she was to be safely away from the insectoid Kolthraftian, Gelantrik knew she still had to prevent him from changing human history. But if she’d
Faster than she thought possible, Gelantrik saw Ludovica’s ship materialize around her. After the parade of human cultures she’d examined briefly in her stepwise trip through time, this advanced-design environment took her breath away.
No less startling was Ludovica herself, now forty years older than when Gelantrik first entered the stasis chamber in the ship’s cargo bay.
“Welcome back,” said the human. “It has been a long time.”
Gelantrik listened deep, into the silence that surrounded them both.
“Are we … alone?” she asked.
“Just me, ship’s AI and a gaggle of servicebots,” said Ludovica. “Oh, my poor dear …”
Ludovica covered her eyes with her hands and plopped down in one of the three flight chairs to her right.
“The others said you were lost,” she cried. “But I knew you’d come back. So when we were reassigned, I refused to leave. They couldn’t force me out, because they knew we owed it to you to wait. And now, look at you — just as young as when you left.”
“I’m sorry you’ve had to suffer here alone,” said the Gantoorni. “I ran into some trouble with an insectoid species.”
“So that’s where they came from!” said Ludovica. “They appeared shortly after your stasis chamber dematerialized.”
Gelantrik’s rounded jaw dropped as Ludovica described the invaders who had stormed the ship, shouting about a grand empire.
“You mean the Kolthraftians succeeded?” asked Gelantrik. “Are they here now?”
Ludovica’s peeling laughter echoed throughout her ship.
“Goodness no,” she said. “Maybe they were fairly advanced for their timeframe. But to us, their creaky cruisers and low voltage lase cannons were a joke. Then they disappeared, thanks to you.”
Gelantrik steadied herself against the nearest bulkhead.
“Just tell me it was worth it,” she said. “Tell me the temporal anomaly is resolved.”
“Time, as we think of it,” said Ludovica, “has stabilized. But I must tell you, this universe is not the one you left. There are … changes.”
Gelantrik listened, eyes downcast, as Ludovica explained that resolving the anomaly had erased the Gantoorni experiment from the timeline. Apparently, Gelantrik’s species was the first side effect of the humans’ misguided temporal experiments.
The young Gantoorni, now the only being of her kind in the universe, collapsed to the floor of the gleaming starspanner.
“I’m all alone?” she sobbed. “What do I do now?”
“You’ll always have a place on Earth,” said Ludovica. “In fact, my government is ready to welcome you as a hero. You are one, you know.”
“What?” snapped Gelantrik. “You stole my life, and all I get in return is a parade?”
Ludovica leaned down and helped the Gantoorni to her feet.
“There is another way,” she said. “Thanks to the anomaly, we now have a complete grasp of metaversal physics.”
Under the right conditions, Ludovica told her, the humans might be able to move Gelantrik to a metaverse in which the Gantoorni existed and the anomaly didn’t. Gelantrik shook her head.
“Even if you could do that, I’d still be among strangers,” she said. “My world … my actual world … is gone. I have a better idea.”
And so it was that, after a few months of dreary ceremonies in which Gelantrik was celebrated all over the human homeworld and its colonies, she joined Ludovica one last time in a vast spaceport. At Gelantrik’s insistence, no one else was allowed onto the steel, glass and concrete platform.
“Remember,” said the human starship captain, “the portable stasis field generator and gravity shielding we gave you runs on a microfusion power supply fueled by tellurium-128. We estimate you’ll age only one minute a year. That’s as close to immortality as anyone can get right now. But … are you sure this is what you want?”
“When I studied with Director Jantraz at the Gantoorni Central Observatory,” said Gelantrik, “we always fantasized about exploring space-time in a silent ship, with no distractions from everyday life. Well, now everything I’ve ever known is gone — except that memory. Keeping it alive is all I have left.”
Ludovica’s bittersweet smile burned bright in the Gantoorni’s mind.
“You’re so brave, so determined,” she said. “I wish we could all be like you.”
“What’s stopping you?” she asked.
Ludovica watched as Gelantrik trudged up the entry ramp of the automated ship built especially for her epic journey. Soon the hatch closed, the ramp receded and warning klaxons signaled that liftoff was imminent.
“Farewell,” Ludovica whispered, and wondered what Gelantrik would make of the universe she’d sacrificed so much to save.
#aliens, #astronomy, #hyperspace, #sci-fi, #science_fiction, #time_machine
Discover a universe of alien intrigue and adventure at My Amazon Page