“Just going for a test drive,” he’d told his wife that morning.
He tried to concentrate on the rest of the pre-flight checklist in order to distract himself from a growing nervousness, but he glanced down the runway all the same, wondering if it was the last thing in the 3-D world he’d ever see. It wasn’t actually a runway but was an abandoned paved road, which would serve the purpose just as well.
The light of a full moon made visibility easy, and he was hoping that would not create spectator problems. No one but he and Max lived down here in the hollow, but once he was airborne, he’d be visible for miles.
When he finished the checklist, and the countdown reached zero, he turned on the thrusters and rolled down the runway and into the air. He climbed and then pulled the lever of his Dimensionalizer to change the angle of his fourth dimensional movement. His craft crossed the threshold into the Void of the Fourth Dimension.
Wow. It really works. I’m the first person in history to see the Fourth Dimension.
Below him was the glowing time/space continuum, and above him endless blackness. This was just a test flight, so it wasn’t long, just a minute up and a minute back. He came in fast toward Max’s farm and deployed his chute to slow him down as he rolled across the fallow field a minute in the past. When he came to a stop, he threw open the gull-wing door, jumped out and whooped in victory.
But his celebration was short-lived. Because another scramjet that looked just like his came down from the sky, deployed its chute and rolled down the field, swerving to a stop right by his own craft. Someone who looked just like him threw open the gull-wing door, jumped out, and spoke.
“What are you doing here?” he asked over his radio.
Then another scramjet came in for a landing behind the second and rolled across the field, swerving to avoid hitting the first two. It’s gull-wing door swung open, but before its passenger could speak, Gordon slapped his gloved hands on his faceplate and radioed the second pilot. “Stay where you are! Don’t go anywhere! And make sure I don’t take off. If I try to, stop me!” Which wasn’t necessary to say because he was speaking to himself.
He took off from the field, narrowly missing the trees at the end and followed his course in reverse, passing himself several times on the way, not back to the present but back to what had been the present. He landed on the deserted road and taxied up to the scramjet, which was preparing to take off. “Scrub the launch!’ he cried into his radio. “Scrub the launch! Stop inventing the time machine!”
He opened his gull-wing door, jumped out, and tore off his helmet. Max stood on the runway, frowning at him.
“We’ve invented it already!” he cried. “Time takes only ten seconds to reset, so you’ve been launching me every ten seconds.”
Max blinked and tried to rub the wrinkles out of his face. “What?”
“The sudden absence of my Timecraft created a vacuum that had to be filled, so time advanced to fill it.”
“Huh?” Max was still rubbing his head.
“Time has been recreating me over and—“
His voice was drowned out by the sound of another scramjet landing on the road and screeching to a halt behind his own. The passenger opened the gull-wing, tore off his helmet and cussed. “I didn’t realize I’d already taken off until I passed me in the Void and I radioed I was the second one I’d seen go by.”
Oh, crap. What do we do now?
The three of them climbed into Max’s truck and drove down a dirt road toward the fallow field, which was now filled with a dozen scramjets and a dozen cussing pilots.
Gordon the First stood on the bed of Max’s truck and addressed the crowd. “We can’t all live the same life,” he said. “So I guess it’s up to all of you to end your lives so I can go on with mine.”
The response was unanimous.
“I was about to say the same thing to you.”
“You all are the ones that have got to go.”
Gordon the First waved his arms to quiet the hubbub. “All right, all right,” he said. “We’ll have to divvy up my life and draw straws to see who gets what. And then go our separate ways.”
They could all see the logic in that.
“I had the same idea myself,” said Gordon the Second.
“Yeah,” said the Third. “It’s like that Dilbert cartoon—“
“where the pointy haired boss—“
“tells his subordinates—“
“he got their same idea—“
“right before they told it to him.”
Gordon the First waved his arms again to quiet everyone down. “Okay, now in unison.”
“But in this case we really did get the same idea at the same time.”
“I just got an idea,” Gordon the first exclaimed. “Why don’t we have a—“
“reunion every year—“
“on our birthday—“
“at the Boltzmann Hotel.”
They could all see the appeal of that.
NED HUSTON'S CHRONOVERSE
Photo from NASA of the NASA scramjet X 43
TIME TRAVELERS ARE A DIME A DOZEN
By Ned Huston
Gordon inspected his Time Machine on the runway behind his house. He walked around the craft, admiring his work.
It’s finally finished. And it’s a beaut!
He’d designed it to look like a scramjet and had painted the word “NASA” on the tail just in case anyone spotted him in the air. It’s always best, he thought, to enter and leave the Fourth Dimension in mid-air so as to avoid collisions with solid matter. Since the craft was black, he was hoping to minimize the chance of someone noticing when it disappeared into the 4-D at night.
No big deal, folks, just another X-43 whizzing by.
But this was no jet. This was a rocketship. Time is space, after all, so to travel in time you need a spaceship.
He was already wearing a spacesuit, of course, and his friend and neighbor Max helped him put on the helmet. Just for laughs, he’d installed a gull-wing door to the cockpit, so he climbed up the steps and eased himself into the pilot’s seat and pulled the door shut.