Book 3 Chapter 1 2019-02-06T17:07:53+00:00

30th Century: Contact

PROLOGUE
In the twenty-seventh century, to facilitate interstellar travel—despite its challenges, such as radiation—altered humans known as Syndos were created by embryonic engineering to settle planets at stars Tau Ceti, Alpha Centauri, and others. With these altered humans at the helm, Earth colonized Mars and seven interstellar worlds. However, by the thirtieth century, the genetically superior but empathy-challenged Syndos comprised the majority of the human population on Earth and subjugated the Natural humans, excluding them from positions of power in science and government.

A covert thirtieth-century pacifist society of Natural human scientists known as the SS developed a plan to travel back in time to the twenty-seventh century to distribute the V7 virus, which would correct the error in the DNA coding that dampened the moral compass of the Syndos. Jennifer Hero directed the plan until the moment of the time jump. She did not follow her brave team on their one-way trip to the past. Instead, she sent herself back further in time to the twenty-first century, where she managed to build a new life.

In the thirty-second century, two-way time travel was accomplished, and Jennifer’s twin sister, who she had just learned about, became a key player in her life and in the mission’s success.

We rejoin our heroine in the year 2031.

CHAPTER 1
Gamma Ray Bursts

The two-year Polynesian sailing trip Marty and Jennifer took with their twins for research was a wild success. Jennifer spent a few months after the trip compiling all the data she’d gathered and writing reports on what had gone as planned and what had not. The anthropological and archeological findings were exciting for her.

But eventually, mid-September rolled around again. Jennifer found herself back in a typical university auditorium with wooden seats and a hardwood speaker podium giving a presentation on gamma ray bursts for her other academic subject of expertise—physics. The stifling auditorium in Honolulu was full of mostly graduate students and professors, but many undergraduates stood at the back. Arriving just as Jennifer began to speak, Marty had chosen a seat near the back as well, not wanting to be a distraction.

Joining Jennifer at the podium at the end of the presentation was Dean William Morse, head of the Astrophysics and Astronomy Institute at the University of Hawaii. He said, “Jennifer, thank you for that stimulating presentation on gamma ray bursts from colliding neutron stars. Any questions?”

The dean pointed to a young woman in the front. “First question!”

“Professor Zitonick, how common are these gamma ray bursts, and where have they occurred so far?”

“Gamma ray bursts‒often called GRBs‒are for a brief time the most intense source of cosmic gamma rays in the universe we know of today,” Jennifer said and then stepped out from behind the podium to the stage. “A typical gamma ray burst emits more energy than our whole galaxy does in a year. On average, there is one GRB observed roughly once per day from completely random directions of the sky. That is within billions of galaxies. They have so far been observed in other galaxies but not close to home.”

From the podium, Dean Morse pointed to a man in the second row on the right. The man asked, “How long does this intensity last and why?”

“The time of these intense events can be short, like less than a few milliseconds to several hours,” Jennifer answered. “The suggested cause of GRBs observed in some of these short events may be the development of a resonance between the crust and core of such stars, perhaps due to the massive tidal forces experienced in the seconds leading up to the collision of the neutron stars, causing the entire crust of a star to shatter. As an example, a typical few-second-long GRB releases more energy than our sun will release in its entire ten-billion-year lifetime.”

Dean Morse said, “Thank you, Jennifer!” then pointed to a woman standing up in the back. “Next question…the woman in the red sweatshirt near the exit.”

The woman in the back asked, “Can GRB events be dangerous to us on Earth?”

“Good question,” Jennifer responded. “If one occurred even a few hundred light-years away, it could sterilize Earth and leave it with almost no atmosphere. Most GRBs are far away‒perhaps many billions of light-years away‒meaning no harm to us. Closer events are extremely rare, such as three per galaxy per million years. Yet they could pose a serious risk if they happened within nine hundred light-years.”

Dean Morse smiled at Jennifer and knocked a gavel against the wooden podium. Looking back to the audience, he said, “I’m sorry. We’re out of time.”

****

After the lecture, Marty and Jennifer went to their Mount Tantalus home above Honolulu, as they needed to get up early the next day. They had plans to meet Jenny, Jennifer’s twin sister who’d been born in the twentieth century but now lived in the thirtieth century. Before the lecture, Jennifer had left their twins, now ten years old, in the care of Marty’s ex-wife, Anne, and her wife, Jill—their neighbors and close friends.

The next morning, Marty and Jennifer flew to Tahiti commercially and then went to Papeete Harbour. There they borrowed the research vessel, the Blue Hole, at the University of Hawaii’s Tahiti Marine Lab.

Marty and Jennifer prepared the Blue Hole for sea travel, fueling her and checking out everything item by item. Next, they started the two engines and made their way out of the harbor. They took turns eating lunch while one acted as helmsman heading south at thirty-eight knots. They expected to reach their destination in about three hours.

Later, as Jennifer piloted from the Blue Hole’s flying bridge, she said, “It is just about time to meet Jenny at the usual coordinates. Are we almost there?”
Standing nearby on the bridge, Marty checked their location on the instrument panel. “No worries,” he replied. “We’ll be on-site fifteen minutes early.”

“What do you think about neutron stars after yesterday’s lecture?” she asked him.

Marty chuckled. “It went over my head. I understood that they’re very dense and are about seven to seventeen miles across and weigh much more than our sun. Also, the fact that this is considered small in the wider universe. And that their ‘small size’ and limited luminosity make them difficult to see, except when they spin fast and give off pulses.”

“Did you enjoy the lecture?”

“Yes, but it went a little fast for me, and I was still thinking about a discussion I’d had with one of my students. How do we detect a star colliding with another star?”

“In 1967, neutron stars were postulated to explain the primarily invisible objects in the sky that emitted pulses of radio waves. So, radio telescopes were the first detection method. Later the Hubble Space Telescope detected isolated neutron stars and we were able to identify them. Some of these pulsing objects rotate extremely rapidly, a thousand times per second, and some of these neutron stars emit radio beams like a high-speed rotating lighthouse.”

“I didn’t understand the gamma ray burst,” Marty admitted.

“That is okay, as no one fully understands them, but we continue to study them. However, in the thirtieth century, much more is known. That information must not be released.” Having been born in the thirtieth century, Jennifer was always careful about sharing her advanced technical knowledge.

“Can you give it to me, so I can follow this better?”

Trusting her husband, Jennifer answered, “Gamma ray bursts may be produced from black holes that collide to form a bigger black hole, or from the merger of a pair of these neutron stars. Scientists estimate there are around one hundred million neutron stars in our galaxy. However, they can only be easily detected if they are emitting something like radio waves or other forms of energy, are in the path of other stars, by radio telescopes, or by their magnetic properties. Then there are also gravity waves when the neutron stars collide.”

“Yes, now it makes more sense. Thank you for the overview.”

“You are welcome, my love.” Jennifer leaned over and kissed him.

“I see Triton!”

“Yes, I see it now!” Jennifer veered the boat sharply to port to head directly for her twin’s vessel, Triton.

****

The deep-water leviathan, a Unicorn-class submersible, was as close to artificial intelligence as Marty had ever seen. He still marveled at Triton every time he saw it.

Soon Jenny launched her inflatable twenty-first century Zodiac from Triton, and on verbal command, the submersible returned to its station under the waves one mile below the ocean’s surface.

Now standing on the deck by Marty, Jennifer felt her blonde hair whip her face as if a hair dryer were engaged.

Jenny shouted, “Ahoy, my twin and Marty!”

“Ahoy, with all my love!” Marty yelled back.

Bonjour,” Jennifer replied as she helped Jenny aboard the Blue Hole. Marty lifted the motor of the Zodiac and handed it to Jennifer. Soon the Zodiac was stored on the Blue Hole and the motor stowed safely in the aft locker.

Marty hugged Jenny warmly then passed her to his wife.

“Jenny, my twin!” Jennifer exclaimed as she kissed Jenny on both cheeks and gently on the lips.

Jenny smiled but looked worried. “I missed you so much.” Jenny kissed Jennifer on both cheeks and hugged her tight. “I need to tell you something so important I’m about to explode!” she whispered in French.

“What is it?” Jennifer responded, also in French.

“Please speak in English,” Marty requested.

In a quivering voice in English, Jenny told them, “I went to the future to visit where my father and your father grew up as brothers in the thirty-second century. All was fine there.”

“You are upset—what is wrong?” Jennifer asked.

“I also went to the fifty-seventh century to get a glimpse of the far future. Earth was burned to a crisp with almost no atmosphere!” Jenny’s voice and body were both wobbly now.

Jennifer narrowed her eyes. “What do you mean?”

“I could find no life on land! Only in the deep ocean vents. All the cities were destroyed! I found no animals or plants on the surface.” Jenny continued to shake, her eyes wet, wide, and frightened.

“Please, calm down… I promise to lead a team of SS members to investigate,” Jennifer reassured her. The Secret Society was an undercover organization in the thirtieth century tasked with maintaining equal rights between humanity’s divergent genetic types, the Syndos and Naturals, among other peacekeeping issues.

“What could cause that?” Jenny asked tearfully.

“We need to gather data and study the heavens,” Jennifer said calmly but with a firm determination.

“We better find out very soon, so we can stop it, if possible!” Jenny started to cry harder.

Marty wrapped Jenny in his arms to comfort her. “Count me in. I’ll help if I can.”

“We will put together an SS team to explore and find out what happened,” Jennifer told her. “We will need an instrument package, small advanced robotic aircraft, land transportation, and more!”

“When can we trans-time to the thirtieth century to gather the SS team?” Jenny asked, a bit calmer after hearing a plan.

“Soon! But first we must get approval and resources,” Jennifer noted. “Then we can take our SS team to look for clues and explore every possible option. We also will need a good cover story for our friends and family in the twenty-first century.”

****

The Blue Hole pulled into the slip at Papeete Harbour. Jenny was dressed in her niqab to disguise being Jennifer’s identical twin; in this century, there was supposed to be only one Jennifer. They cleaned the sport fisher and rinsed it down with fresh water. After finishing, they headed directly to the hotel without stopping to say hello to Lacy, the director of the Marine Science Lab for the Tahiti campus of the University of Hawaii, or their other friends. When they got back to Honolulu the next day, they sent e-mails and made calls to arrange for the cover story that Jennifer and Jenny would soon be away on an extended sailing trip together.

The next week Jennifer, Marty, and Jenny returned to Tahiti and spent the evening with their close friends and lovers, Bill and Lacy Kiaomoku. The Zitonick twins, Tippit and Enerjin, also were visiting the Kiaomoku home. Jennifer had trusted Lacy with the secret of time travel a few years before, and she and Bill were some of the few people in the twenty-first century to know the truth of Jennifer’s origins in the thirtieth century. Now Jennifer and Jenny were alone drinking wine with Lacy in the study and telling her that they would be leaving on another mission involving the trans-time machine.

Lacy asked, “Why must you go for so long?”

Jennifer explained, “There are built-in safeguards because no person knows what happens as a result of cutting the arrival and departure of time travel too close. If we are in another time for a month, we come back here a month after we left to prevent time twisting. It may seem like overkill, but we must avoid meeting ourselves. This fourth-dimensional rule was set out in guidelines by the inventor of time travel, Zexton Ho. The trans-time machine has a built-in timer to track the lapse of real time in both origin and destination.”

Jenny jumped in and said, “I explored the thirty-second century. All was well with our relatives. I explored the far future, and things were so amazing in the fiftieth century. But in the fifty-seventh century, our Earth is dead! No life! We must go to find out what happened. It will take time to get a vote and commitments for funds and then practice and implement a detailed plan. We are not allowed to come back to the twenty-first century before we left or earlier than we were really gone, as the Council of Five is very conservative on introducing possible time paradoxes.”

Lacy narrowed her eyes. “So there is a way to come back earlier if you really want to return?”

Jennifer and Jenny exchanged a look. Jenny said, “It is possible to override this safeguard, but it would be extremely risky, and only the engineers who built the trans-time machine would have any clue how to do it. And we really don’t know what would happen. It could turn time inside out.”

****

At the helm of the Blue Hole the following day, Lacy took Jennifer, Marty, their twins, and Jenny to the ocean above the Trans-Time Eleven device one hundred miles south of Tahiti. Marty and the twins said goodbye to Jennifer, as Jenny had suggested that the council would take the project more seriously if the ten-year-olds were left behind. Marty also stayed behind to look after Tippit and Enerjin. Jenny and Jennifer transferred to Triton, which dove to the bottom of the ocean, and once there, they docked with Trans-Time Eleven. They quickly trans-timed to the thirtieth century.

The rules of time travel, governed by the SS, required that they arrive well after Jenny had left in her personal timeline, to avoid crossing herself or being in the same time twice. Linear months and years passed for Jenny and the other members of Jennifer’s family in the thirtieth century just as time passed for Marty and their children in the twenty-first century. Every time Jennifer returned to her native century, everyone she knew was older. Fifteen years had now passed since the first successful time travel by humans, known in the thirtieth century as the Big Bang Sacrifice.

Jennifer and Jenny returned to the thirtieth century and then traveled to Tasmania. They went to the red barn outside of Hobart, where Professor Zexton Ho had first introduced Jennifer to the SS when she was a University of Tasmania student. The SS headquarters still were hidden underground. While remaining very secretive, the SS organization was no longer entirely secret. Select top Syndo leaders knew about the group now.

Going down to the fiftieth floor, they met with the SS leader, Admiral Tom Page, and his Council of Five around an oval table in a large conference room used as the council chambers. The twins’ goal was to obtain assistance in investigating the cause of the mass extinction on Earth and Mars in the fifty-seventh century.

Jennifer briefly explained what Jenny had found in the fifty-seventh century, then suggested, “Tom, I need Kylie Brown and twenty-one others from the SS for our initial investigation.”

“Yes, we can assemble a team of twenty-one, plus Kylie,” Tom replied.

Akina Cool-al, an outspoken member of Tom’s council, asked, “Can you tell me what you’re thinking? How can the past change such a significant future event?”

Akina had been a key player on the twenty-seventh century’s V7 virus mission due to her family’s historical ownership of Blue Mountain Waterfall and the nearby land. Clearly, she had a challenging job of establishing the water company. She had come from these Aboriginal tribal lands in Australia, and therefore held the Blue Mountain Waterfall access rights. From the Syndo mission to revived humanity, she knew firsthand how changing past events could affect the future. But this disaster was at another magnitude altogether.

Also, although the V7 mission had activated the moral compass of the Syndos, they remained a breed apart from Natural humans in the thirtieth century, and some small friction between the races continued on a competitive level in industry, sports, and other fields.

Jennifer answered, “I think we need to collect data and analyze it. We need to determine whether the SS by itself can accomplish this mission or whether we need a coalition with the Syndos and other Naturals.”

“Can we trust the Syndos if we disclose time travel to them?” Akina persisted as she looked deeply into Jennifer’s eyes.

“I do not know, but this project could be too big for us alone. I suggest we consider opening it up to the Syndos and getting their top astronauts and scientists to come along.”

Tom shook his head. “Until we know more, we will not share our secret.”

“I agree with Tom,” said Happy Li, another member of Tom’s council and a former member of Kylie’s team on her mission to the twenty-seventh century.

Tom asked, “Captain Brown, what do you think?”

Kylie replied, “Let the SS send its best twenty-two investigators and we’ll report the facts, analyze the data, and discuss the possible action steps in a more meaningful way.”

Tom said, “Jennifer, please leave the room with your sister and wait for my call. I’ll discuss this matter with the council and give you an answer.”

“Yes, we will leave and wait in the lobby. I await your answer,” Jennifer replied.

Jenny asked, “Can I make a statement before you discuss, as I was the one who found the dead planet Earth in the future?”

“Yes, speak your piece in five minutes or less,” Tom said.

With tears in her eyes and a crack in her voice, Jenny told them, “I wanted to explore the future for my own curiosity and was shocked to find a dead world. I accept any punishment you deem necessary. We must do whatever we can to keep life alive in this catastrophic and dynamic universe. We owe this not just to humans and Syndos but to all life on Earth. You, Tom, and your council decide, as you are the SS leaders now.”

Jenny and Jennifer left the room together and held hands to show unity to the council as they walked out.

****

The council deliberated for about one hour. Jennifer got the call from Tom.

Within minutes, she and Jenny were back with the council around the round table in their chambers.

Tom cleared his throat, looked around at the council members, then over to Jenny and Jennifer. He announced, “We, the SS leadership, have decided to allow you to pick up to twenty-two volunteers to investigate for thirty days and then report to the council your conclusions. Please come into my office after this meeting and we can discuss details.”

“Thank you and the council for your support,” Jennifer said. “In addition to Kylie and Jenny, I will pick twenty individuals from the principal forty-seven that returned with Kylie from my earlier mission if they volunteer. I will go, and Jenny will be on the controls at a central site as we send teams out to gather data. Kylie will be second-in-command; I have confidence in her. I will have more details to discuss after I consult the members of the team, but we will need resources. Kylie invested a large sum of money in the twenty-seventh century for use in any nonviolent effort to save humanity. This is clearly such an event. Do you agree?”

“Yes,” Tom agreed, “the council decided to allow these funds to be used to prepare and investigate the mass extinction in the fifty-seventh century.”

“Thank you for your kind consideration and wisdom,” Jenny said. “What about my punishment?”

Tom replied, “The council decided to promote you to Commander Jenny Heros (pronounced Arrow). You must lead the team back to what you found and learn what you can. Your specific tasks will be determined by Captain Jennifer Zitonick, who is the project leader. Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.”

“Thank you so much,” Jenny responded, feeling grateful and relieved. “I am glad you listened and are receptive to supporting this vital mission.”

“This is an opportunity for Jenny and me to serve all life on Earth,” Jennifer added. “On a personal note, my sister and I request permission to share this information with our parents—which, due to our particular circumstances, would be four individuals.”

After some discussion between Jennifer, Jenny, and the council, Tom said, “Yes, we’ve agreed on the following terms for your parents. If they join the SS formally and take the oath of secrecy, you may disclose this information.”

“This is a subject that I know without a doubt will compel my mother and father to join and do what they can to help, so I commit for them,” Jennifer replied. “I’m sure Jenny’s parents will feel the same.”

 

CHAPTER 2
The Investigation

Within the week, Jennifer, Jenny, Kylie, and a team of twenty SS volunteers arrived at the trans-time facility below the floating city of Pacifica Anthozoa. After trans-timing, they arrived at the same location one hundred miles south of Tahiti in the fifty-seventh century.

Upon arrival, they exited the Trans-Time Eleven to the submersible Triton, which took them to the surface.

Immediately Jennifer ordered, “Launch recon vehicles!”

“Aye-aye, Captain,” Kylie replied.

Within a half hour, Kylie and her sub-team were launching the recon aircraft, two rocket-powered vehicles carrying three satellites each, as well as dirigibles from the submersible Triton—all of which had been stored in the underwater craft’s hull within the trans-time facility. All recon vehicles in the fleet were programmed to run by themselves. In a few hours, the data started to come in with a horrifying confirmation of Jenny’s story. On a hunch, Jennifer set the second satellite’s telescopes to search the sky for possible sources of a gamma ray burst.

****

After a few days, Jennifer raised her suspicions with the other SS members.

Standing before them in a small classroom in the Triton, she revealed, “After reviewing the data and the astronomical database of the thirtieth century, I suspect a large gamma ray burst.”

Kylie was seated in the first row of chairs. With curiosity as well as fear, she asked, “What caused it and where in the sky did it happen?”

Pacing in the front, Jennifer replied, “I do not know with certainty; however, I suspect that studying the sky in the fifty-sixth century will provide the answer.”

“If you needed to guess based on all our data, what would you estimate?” Jenny asked, concerned.

“I worked on that for a while and built a computer model,” Jennifer answered. “Let me share what I have so far.”

Jennifer turned on an advanced presentation program that projected her work from a small palm-sized device that floated a short distance from the ceiling. She would be able to advance the presentation though a holographic projector. Her first model calculated the location for the source of the gamma ray burst.

“These are the coordinates I have so far,” she reported. “According to the thirtieth-century database, there existed a binary system comprising two rapidly rotating neutron stars in this area. One hypothesis is that these six-to-twelve-mile-in-diameter stars collided to create the gamma ray beam that wiped out our planet.”

“Is there anything we can do to stop this collision?” Kylie asked with a wrinkled brow.

“Not that I know of,” Jennifer stated truthfully, “but we may be able to change the direction of the beam, as these neutron stars are rotating at about one thousand times a second.”

“Please come up with a way to save Earth,” Jenny asked solemnly.

****

After several days of intense programming, Jennifer ran her models. Then she gathered the half a dozen team members not currently on recon assignments into the classroom, along with Jenny and Kylie, to share her new discoveries.

“First, I must announce that everything points to the coordinates I targeted being correct,” she said. “This will need to be confirmed in the fifty-sixth century.”

The SS members looked at Jennifer with appreciation. Even Jenny managed a slight smile.

Jennifer continued. “There’s more… I believe I have a possible solution to the neutron star problem; however, this solution requires a very large object to be sent to collide with one of the neutron stars before the collision to change its angular momentum slightly.”

“How big an object?” Jenny asked then began biting her lower lip.

“Something several hundred miles in diameter, such as Vesta, our solar system’s largest asteroid, if one considers Ceres a dwarf planet.”
Thoughtfully Kylie asked, “Is that really possible?”

“At ten percent of the speed of light, it could take almost five thousand years to get to the location of the colliding neutron stars,” Jennifer told those gathered. “It appears almost impossible to execute this proposed solution with thirtieth-century technology.”

Kylie suggested, “Let’s call in the recon teams and head back to the thirtieth century to discuss our findings with Tom and his council.”

“We are thinking along the same lines, Kylie,” responded Jennifer. “I do want you to return with the recon teams to make a report. But first I need to find a volunteer or two to go with me to the fifty-sixth century. As I noted, we need to make sure we have identified the right neutron-star binary system and must locate the right coordinates before we will have a full report for the SS in the thirtieth century.”

“I volunteer!” Jenny exclaimed.

“Kylie, can you lead our people back to the thirtieth century and report on what we have found so far?” Jennifer asked.

“Yes, I’ll take Ben Sun with me to report on our findings to date. You can add to my report when you get back with your astronomical data. Right now, Ben’s doing some recon work involving one of our surveillance satellites.”

Jennifer blinked, astonished. “I did not recognize Ben after all these years. Thank you for the great idea of bringing him along on this mission.”

“Ben’s an amateur astronomer,” Kylie noted. “He joined the SS several years ago at the urging of Tom Page. Didn’t you know he came with us?”

“I did not notice that he was on this team—he must be someone you added, and then I missed his name on the roster. Please contact him immediately. Instead of going to the thirtieth century, I want to ask him if he is willing to help us locate the neutron star system. We will go together to the thirtieth century to drop off your team, and we will then go directly to the fifty-sixth century.”

****

After a couple of hours, Ben stood smiling in front of Jennifer in the main cabin of Triton, which she was using as an office. His face had grown somewhat rounder and he had facial hair, but his straight Chinese hair was still black without any gray and his brown eyes twinkled.

Jennifer grabbed Ben and hugged him. “Hello, my old friend… I thought you were still building floating cities. I did not recognize you with your beard and mustache.”

“I joined three years ago,” he replied, “but I thought you had committed suicide in the Big Bang Sacrifice. Kylie never said any different, and you know the SS leadership.”

“We used the ten-megaton bomb to cover our trans-time tracks.”

“Thanks, that explains a great deal!” he said smiling.

“Please, sit down with me,” Jennifer suggested. After they had settled on a sofa on one side of the room, she asked, “Are you still chief engineer at the floating city factory?”

“I’m executive vice president of operations.”

Now Jennifer had a big smile. “Good for you,” she responded, proud of him. “I knew you would do well at whatever you decided to do, as you were very smart and practical. How are Lota and the kids?”

“They’re all fine. I have a grandchild now. Can you believe it?” He grinned and shook his head. “They all think I’m on a business trip.”

Jennifer looked closely at her friend and grew more serious. She asked, “Would you like to join us as we recon the sky in the fifty-sixth century?”

Ben had been at the first briefing on the Triton, and this aspect of the mission had been on his mind ever since. He told her, “I think I can help triangulate the location with the telescopic system.”

“Yes, Kylie has told me about your hobby, and you have actually discovered two new comets using Earth-bound telescopes. That is amazing!”

Ben shrugged, downplaying his accomplishment. “Yes, I volunteer to help you. I’ll do my best, as I love astronomy. My father taught me astronomy at an early age. I give him most of the credit for the comet discoveries, as he wrote the software that allowed me to pick them out of the Oort cloud.”

“Let me give you a personal introduction to my twin, Jenny, as she will join us on the adventure to the fifty-sixth century.”

Jennifer sent a text message via her watch asking Jenny to join them.

****

Jenny entered Triton’s main cabin at Jennifer’s summons, and she sat down in a chair by the sofa. Jennifer introduced Jenny to Ben but did not explain how she had a twin he never knew about. After working with the SS for a few years, Ben knew better than to ask. He offered his hand and Jenny clasped it tightly and smiled.

After giving Ben’s hand a squeeze, then letting it go, Jenny said, “This may be a simple mission, but we do not know what to expect if we are discovered by the fifty-sixth-century people. If we can stay submerged in Triton and use remote aircraft to collect the astronomical data, we should be fine.”

Ben noted, “I think the telescope can be attached to the robotic aircraft capable of flying to one hundred and twenty thousand feet.”

“Let us start the work now. We trans-time in thirty-two hours after we drop off Kylie and her team,” Jennifer announced.

Jenny and Ben studied how to adapt the telescope to the robotic aircraft as Jennifer reviewed the charts. Jennifer developed a plan to release the robotic aircraft near Antarctica in the fifty-sixth century because they would not likely be monitored in that location.

****

Two days later, the three SS members were in the fifty-sixth century aboard Triton ready to activate the plan.

In the control room on the submersible, Jennifer commanded Triton. “Southeast to the Ross Sea off eastern Antarctica.”

A short while later, Jenny and Ben entered the command post and walked over to Jennifer. Jenny reported, “Ben has the telescope adapted to the robotic aircraft. It is ready to fly.”

Ben smiled and added, “Jenny helped make this possible. I could not have done this alone in this short time, so I want to give her credit.”

Jennifer felt the mission was in good hands with both of them.

****

The next evening, after arriving at the coastal area of the great Ross Ice Shelf, Jennifer waited for clouds to accumulate. It took three more days until finally a storm blanketed the area. After dark in Triton’s command room, Jennifer ordered, “Launch the robotic aircraft!”

“Aye-aye, Captain!” Ben exclaimed from a chair close by the controls. Ben then launched the thirtieth-century stealth aircraft after Triton surfaced briefly in the savage storm.

“The aircraft is away safely, and all data links are functioning,” Jenny announced from an adjacent post. “I can see the large, local research base and their high-rise homes and office buildings. It’s a small city.”

Within a couple of hours, Ben said, “The stealth aircraft sent back data on the binary magnetars’ locations.”

“How does it look?” Jennifer asked.

“Great first data!” Ben answered, and then he looked up from his monitor. “However, we need a second location to create a triangle to get an accurate position, so the robotic aircraft needs to fly for four more hours.”

The team all went to sleep to be ready for the last data collection. Triton dove deep and ran silently on stealth mode.

****

Unfortunately, while they slept, the fifty-sixth century authorities picked up and tracked Triton.

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