Time Past

Time Past by Maxine McArthur Read Free Book Online

Book: Time Past by Maxine McArthur Read Free Book Online
Authors: Maxine McArthur
stretched the emergency running time to nearly three weeks by shutting off every inessential system and consuming as few resources as possible, so by then I was dirty, hungry, sleep-deprived, and thoroughly frustrated.
    But the closer I got to Earth the worse I felt. There was no sign of Invidi presence. No ship signals, no residue from any kind of spaceship engine I was familiar with, no alien comm traffic. Only human signals, mostly on the same narrow band of frequencies and all of them on Earth, except for a robot probe gathering samples on Titan. When I reached the moon, being careful to keep on the dark side, I stopped and listened more carefully to the signals.
    And it was there, huddled in my dark, foul-smelling, stale-aired cabin that had become a prison, exhausted, confused, and scared, that I learned I was in the wrong time. But this is impossible, I told myself, trying not to speak out loud to conserve oxygen, but by that time often it wasn’t clear in my head if I spoke or not. News report after news report, entertainment program after program—what a lot of them—military communiqué after communiqué, all repeated the same unbelievable date.
    This is your Moscow correspondent, bringing you the news on January 4, 2023.
    Here’s the weather, then, for Wednesday, fourth of January, 2023.
    Kickin’ in with the best quiz on the globe, this fine Tuesday evening, 3 January 2023.
    I could understand the English, Spanish, and a little of the German—from my great-grandmother—and had to assume the other languages carried the same message. I was four years too early. The Invidi hadn’t arrived yet.
    Which is impossible.
    I floated in the middle of the cabin and squeezed my eyes shut to keep out the sight of what might become my coffin. Don’t panic, think.
    Calypso
left Earth in flatspace in 2026 and came out of a jump point at Jocasta in 2122. Six months later, I go back through that point and emerge at the coordinates
Calypso
must have left from. The distance from Earth to those coordinates indicated
Calypso
must have reached there and entered the jump point in 2027. Which means the jump should have been ninety-five years long. But I had emerged at the coordinates in 2023... 2023, oh, gods... which makes a length of ninety-nine years between now and my time of 2122.
    No jump we know changes length. They are always fixed in space—invisible until activated, but always in the same spot—and always have the same length, or “correspondence.” Otherwise what would be the point of having a jump network? That’s how the Confederacy maintains order, by keeping all member worlds on the same timeline.
    Yet not only had
Calypso
used a jump point that was not connected to the Confederacy’s Central jump network, but it seemed to have shifted back in time.
    What the hell should I do?
    In the end, I kept my original plan, prompted by the date. The only way I could find out if the jump point was still connected to my world of 2122 was to either repair my jump drive myself or ask the Invidi. As I couldn’t do the former, I’d have to wait for the Invidi to arrive. And the Invidi arrived on Earth in May 2023. May 1, to be exact. All I had to do was survive five months on my own planet.
    If I’d known what that involved, maybe I would have stayed in
Calypso II
and tried to stretch and convert my fuel for five months.
    But I didn’t, I left
Calypso II
tethered in a deep crater on the dark side of the moon and took one of the escape pods down to the planet.
    The Single Escape Vehicle was popularly known as a “turd” because of their simple shape and the fact that if you needed to use one, you were deep in it. This one lived up to its reputation by malfunctioning, then disintegrating at about seven kilometers above the surface, and I floated down in a damaged paratube that eventually caught in short, thorny bushes on a hillside and dumped me. Sand and small, sharp rocks made a mess of the environment suit’s

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