For Quantum Entity | The Successors (book 3 in the trilogy) I had to invent a new type of spacecraft, called Electrodynamic Spinners. Here’s the scene when it first appears on earth. See below.
I realized months after I wrote about them that this type of spacecraft opens up the real possibility of interstellar travel not because they are FTL (faster than light) craft but because they allow their pilots to set time dilation (a proven relativity effect) to whatever they like. So a journey in RS (real space) that might last 100,000 years could pass in a few months for passengers and crew onboard one of these ships.
Anyway, here’s the scene involving Ellen Brooks of Mars and her earth-bound son, Finnegan, and his dad, Dr. Damien Bell:
What’s left of his crew begins to hear a sound they can’t quite place. It’s like a mosquito buzzing around your head when you are camping at night—you can’t see it but you know it’s there. It is not a pleasant sound.
They look up and around but still can’t place where it’s coming from. Then a shape begins to form—it’s about the size of a minibus except it’s spherical and turning like a child’s top, but at speeds that are far beyond human comprehension. It stops spinning and making that annoying insect sound, but the silvery colored thing looks like it is still experiencing hurricane-type weather on its surface. Then a small hatch opens. A woman’s arm and hand reaches out and drags Dr. Bell into the sphere.
The guys hear her say, “Hello Damien” and Dr. Bell responding softly, “Hello Ellen, how are you?”
These men are the first Terrans to see Electrodynamic Spinners in action—they can move through RS at close to lightspeed. They can rotate in place at near lightspeed as well, which means they can take people into the future. As far as they could possibly want to go.
The Martians have come.
“Where will you go, Finnegan? You and the Padre are welcome on Mars.”
“No thanks, Mom. Do you have any more of these… spaceships?”
Ellen has explained their function to Finnegan.
“I have an idea.”
“I have no wife. No babies. Naya is gone, maybe forever. Nell and Dad are gone. My brother has Nina. You have Farrar. I’ve done nothing, created nothing, left nothing behind. So I’m going to go somewhere else.”
“Where?” say Ellen and Jules at the same time except Jules says, “Der?”
“Into the future. I think that’s where Dad wanted me to go. It’s where I want to go. I am going to travel 100, 500, 1,000, whatever number of years into the future I have to, however long it takes, to tell people what we did in the Quantum Era to protect and preserve their freedom. They have to know, Mom. They have to know.” Finn is thinking he’ll find true love there and a purpose for his life, which has so far eluded him.
Ellen hands him something the size of a formal dinner plate.
“You press here,” she says pointing to its center. “But don’t do it in here. Outside.”
They go outside her spinner where she is immediately oppressed by Earth’s gravity.
Finn presses and his spinner unfolds itself and expands.
They go inside and she shows him how to set speeds for time dilation, translation in space as well as gravity settings. He selects one gravity, Earth normal.
“How far into the future do you want to travel, Finnegan?”
“I’ll visit 100 years into the future to start.”
“OK,” Ellen says and makes some rudimentary calculations using one of the onboard utilities.
In another few seconds, she says, “Alright, you need to set this for 99.9994250000% of c.” c is the speed of light. “It means you will spend just over 4 months inside your spinner but 100 years will have passed in real space.”
“I’ll end up here, right Mom? I mean the same place.”
“Yes,” Ellen replies uncertainly.
“I want to go 100 years into the future but I want to appear somewhere else. Can this craft do that too?”
“Sure. It’s just a bit more complicated.” Ellen shows him how to set the machine for translation through space in addition to time displacement.
It’s really much more complicated but Mars engineers have made it simple for pilots because their onboard computer already takes into account not only the ship’s position with respect to the solar system but to the Milky Way galaxy as well. They determine spatial coordinates down to the quantum scale because over the time period they are potentially looking at here, small variances (brought about in part because the Heisenberg uncertainty principle asserts that there is a fundamental limit to the precision with which position and momentum can be known simultaneously) could cause Finnegan to emerge deep inside Earth’s core or, say, outside lunar orbit. The latter wouldn’t be much of a problem but the former certainly would be.
“So where do you want to end up, Finn?”
“In Dallas, Mom.”
Ellen raises her eyebrows in surprise since Dallas has been one of the chief centers of Cartesian power having been resettled by nearly two million Han and Germanians.
“I figure I’ll start by reeducating them first, Mom,” Finn explains. He smiles at her.
Ellen thinks for a second, smiles back, then punches in new coordinates: Earth 32°46′43″N 96°48′30″W. Finn will appear 100 years from now at 411 Elm Street where the Dealey Plaza is located. It’s also the place where President Kennedy was shot.
She goes to a part of the hull and presses her palm there. A panel unfolds. It contains drawers of clothes that all look the same.
“You need to change into one of these, son.”
“What are they?”
Finn looks dubiously at a white stretchy, one piece skintight uniform with gray metallic thread woven into it in a spider-web pattern. Finn never saw Ellen’s arrival so he doesn’t know that she was wearing one of these when she came to Earth in her e-spinner. Damien thought she looked terrific in it. Since then, Ellen’s been wearing more normal Earth-girl attire.
“It’s a one-size-fits-all protective suit. You’ll look very handsome in it especially when you pull the cowl over your head, Finnegan. You’ll look like the Blue Men in concert,” Ellen laughs.
Finn has no idea who the Blue Men are but when he’s alone in his spinner for months at a time, he’ll look them up in his ship’s immense, nearly infinite media library. He’ll also find out that Mars engineers have equipped the ship with every kind of avatar imaginable (similar to what Pi and Zoe did) so pilots will never be lonely. But Finnegan isn’t interested in having virtual sex with beautiful avatars. All his life, he’s been looking for love in all the wrong places and doesn’t want a lonely Finnegan falling for a sexpot who is not real and never changes or evolves. He’ll give that part of his ship’s repertoire a miss.
He changes grumpily into his spacesuit asking, “What’s it do?”
“It protects your mind from electrodynamic forces that would alter your state of consciousness and reorder your chromosomes, Mr. Bell.”
“It is. But you can get out of them for an hour or two a day. Just not long periods without it, OK?”
“Right,” he says. “Um, Mom, any other surprises for me like I’ll grow goat horns and whiskers?” Finn is thinking of Hania and Kele’s goat herd, which helped keep them alive for years.
Ellen laughs again. “You’ll find plenty of surprises but all on the upside, son.” Then more seriously she adds, “You realize you can never come back, Finn. Never. You understand that? It is a one way trip.”
“I know that Mom. I’ll stay and help you bury him.”
“No, son. I’ll do that on my own. It’s better that way.”
To be honest, now that he has decided, he is eager (typical of most young people) to be off on his new adventure. Like Nina is experiencing right about now, freedom is a drug. It would pain both of them to admit it but freedom is an emotion you experience after a loved one dies, a parent passes or a relationship ends. It’s callously true.
He gives his mother an embrace, shakes hands with Jules and climbs into his new spacecraft. He powers up his spinner for his journey into an unknowable future.