Chapter excerpt for Out of Time
They had to escape from this period in time. The people they were visiting in the 1600’s thought they were witches and the spawn of the devil. Historians had warned the schoolteacher about visiting Salem, Massachusetts, during the Salem Witch Trials, especially with a dozen twelve year olds in her care. The teacher had Doctor John Hawking and Captain Erickson with the class, but the villagers were chasing after them, and there was no way to get to the shuttle without significantly changing history. Through the Interactive History program, Mrs. Hanson only wanted to show her class what made these particular Puritans so paranoid, and what happens to people when they were accused of witchcraft. Well, they got more than they bargained for.
Hawking was loudly complaining, “This is stupid. We should have had a military backup when we go to these particular time periods. With all the threats to us from the Puritans and the Native Americans, neither of which tolerate strangers on their lands, we’re in constant danger. I’m going to file a protest with the President, and insist we get some military backing,”
“What about interfering with time by bringing advanced weapons, armor, and everything involved with a military operation?” asked Erickson.
“We have the technology to make our weapons appear to be muskets, so why not? We can then have the soldiers wear whatever uniforms from whatever time we’re in, and that will solve that!” insisted Hawking.
“Well, let’s worry about that when we get back.”
After leading the witch-hunters through the forest for over an hour, the time travelers managed to finally lose them. The school kids thought this was cool, while their teacher was frantic. Erickson led them all back to the holographically disguised shuttle, which was disguised to look like a small house. Once they were back inside, and everyone was accounted for, Erickson piloted the shuttle back to the USS Einstein, which was waiting in orbit. On the ship, Mrs. Hanson and her class went to the room that was a temporary classroom, while Hawking and Erickson went to the bridge. On the bridge, Erickson was asked by Yeager, “How did it go, Captain?”
“It didn’t go well. One of the villagers got it into her head that we were more than just strangers, so we were accused of witchcraft. Mrs. Hanson tried to argue that we weren’t witches, which made them even angrier, especially since it was a woman who was arguing with them. So, within minutes we had the whole angry-mob-with-fire-and-pitchforks coming after us. After our little disappearance, we might as well be witches to them. Remind me never to let any historian or schoolteachers convince us to let them travel to Salem of the 1690’s. Now, we can return home and see what other adventures we have in-store for us.”
The USS Einstein traveled forward to 2157. Once back in their own time, the sixth graders would be doing their e-book reports on what happened in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. After Hawking and the others had returned from the first missions through time, the government decided there would be a no-interference policy for the past, a sort of Grandfather Paradox Policy. The idea was, through the previous experience, that if anyone interfered in anything significant to the timeline, that when you returned to your period of time, you may not exist because your ancestors may not have survived a certain period in the time you tried to fix. Hawking said this was all theory and he didn’t know if the person would disappear from history if they returned to the present, but he didn’t want to find out.
Contaminating the timeline without meaning to could be a real possibility with the Interactive History program the Department of Education had thought up recently. Too many American children knew far too little about their history, so with the use of a time traveling starship, they could learn from first-hand experience. Hawking disagreed with this, but convinced Congress to pass a Grandfather Paradox Act, making sure nobody would interfere in the natural flow of history. Sure, Hawking was becoming rich and famous because of this because school districts, historians, and others paid him to take them back in time, but he still cared about not contaminating the timeline.
Hawking was also worried about when those rogue time travelers from the beginning of his first trips through time were supposed to interfere with the original missions, but he had no idea when in the future they were from. Another worry was the fact that the Time Tripper had been built without his knowledge; he wondered what other things had he done that the government had turned around and gone behind his back to do one their own? He would never know. Now, government contracts were going to the lowest bidder for the next generation of time traveling starship.
These new ships and with Commander Robinsons’ help, could go faster than the speed of light if they needed to use the suns’ gravity to jump through time, which didn’t happen very often, since they almost always found fluid time access points. Robinson had also experimented with using black holes to travel through time, which wasn’t quite working out the way he thought the experiments would. All the black hole experiment did was make the ship stay stuck in the event horizon, going nowhere, making it nearly impossible for the ship to leave or be rescued, so now Robinson would have to invent a whole new way to get the ship unstuck from a black holes’ event horizon.
Hawking made sure he held the patents to his time device, which required the new stardrives to work; he wanted no one, but mostly the government, to go behind his back and build another timeship without his knowledge. President Williamson assured the scientist that anything having to do with the secrets of time travel was now solely Hawkings’ responsibility; there were no longer secret government labs or secret time traveling missions. Doctor Hawking still wanted to know what kind of missions had occurred previous to Hawking going on his first official missions, but all Williamson would say is that it was classified higher than the security clearance that Doctor Hawking had been given by the powers-that-be.
Hawking had been asked by some Smithsonian Institute historians if he could take them to observe moments like the Boston Massacre, the signing of the Constitution, the War of 1812 and the British burning the White House, the various battles of the Civil War, and other significant happenings in American history. They wanted to record everything for posterity so the Smithsonian Museum could accurately portray everything instead of guessing on a few moments in history.
He was a bit overwhelmed with all the requests for his time and the attention he was receiving, so he finally hired a secretary and an agent so that he wouldn’t have to deal with everything so directly. How he ended up as the go-to-guy for trips through time, he wasn’t sure – all he wanted to do originally was to figure out how to time travel. Since he enjoyed history, it really didn’t bother him all that much to go back in time and show everyone how history had happened. What bothered him was, what would happen if someone messed up the timeline like he and the others did the first time they went through time, would they be able to fix it again? So, he started reflecting on how he went through this whole time travel scheme the first time