I wrote this story over 23 years ago and just found it in my archives. I am posting it here with all of the anachronistic references, passive voice, as well as some of the subtle (and not-so-subtle) politically incorrect views under which my early 20's self suffered.
Dr. Benjamin Motich folded his hands on the simwood table as he addressed the Senate Committee. The committee of three Senators had the task of investigating the claims of legal transgressions on the part of the Big Four; the four multi-corporations that effectively ruled the solar system. Only twice before in the history of EarthCo had a Senate Committee attempted to delve into the inner workings of the largest single corporation in the solar system. The first time had been in 2103 when Japan had attempted to frame EarthCo for accepting bribes for pre-releasing the design specs for an extra-solar system manned probe to the United States.
The second time, a Senate Committee had investigated EarthCo had been just after the Colony Wars. The Vallis Marineris colony and the Argyre colony on Mars, both privately funded by wealthy families, had erupted in a bloody family feud that threatened to destroy both colonies. In that instance, EarthCo had been accused of selling weapons to both colonies in hope that by destroying themselves, EarthCo could set up its own sovereign colony on the nearby ice cap.
In both instances, EarthCo had been acquitted of all charges for a lack of evidence. Benjamin wiped his brow nervously once, then returned his hands to the table. Staring across the table at the three Senators felt like staring down the barrel of a gun. Privately, Benjamin wondered if his predecessors had felt as nervous as he was feeling at this instant when the Committee had addressed them in the other two cases. At least the questions had been prepared in advance and Benjamin had a little time to review them. Glancing at the screen embedded in the table, Benjamin addressed the first question without any preamble. If he took control from the beginning, the Senators would most likely be off-balance for the entire duration of the interview.
“The problem with time travel, gentlemen, is that if one wishes to travel in time, you must also have the means to travel in space.”
Senator Billings, from North America, stopped Dr. Motich before he could go any further. Benjamin waited in quiet annoyance as the Senator took a sip of his water before asking, “Please explain what that means, Doctor. That means very little to me and I’m sure it doesn’t mean much more to my colleagues either.”
Benjamin doubted that. Senator Billings wasn’t renowned for his intellectual capacity. No one doubted his physical stamina, though. The Senator had taken a gold at the last Olympics for small fighter maneuvers. His instant popularity at winning the gold in a sport traditionally dominated by Asians and the help of a wealthy family had propelled him into the political arena.
Benjamin started slowly, “Well Senator, the universe is always moving and expanding. The Earth rotates around the sun, the sun rotates around the galaxy, the galaxy rotates around the local cluster, and the entire universe is expanding. If you wanted to travel in time, you would have to determine the exact location of the earth, to the centimeter, when you wanted to be.”
Senator Nyguen, from Asia Sector 2 interjected, “When you wanted to be, doctor?” Senator Phung Nyguen was also a newcomer into the political game. Young and fueled by an obvious determination, Nyguen had quickly beaten the seventy other candidates to his Senatorial position. Asia 2, or Old China as it was commonly called, was one of the only spots left on the planet besieged by overpopulation and underemployment. China had been the last nation to join the Planetary League of Nations or PLN as it was commonly called. Joining a mere seventy years ago, it still had a few decades of “catching-up” before its standard of living would be the same as the rest of the planet. The Chinese harbored a fierce pride in the fact that they were nearly self-sufficient when the rest of the nations of the world were forced to rely heavily on each other. Sheer hubris, really. Their empire had collapsed under its own weight and decadence. There were even unverified reports, which Benjamin really didn’t believe, that certain back-water provinces had reverted to cannibalism before China had succumbed to the need to join the PLN.
Benjamin paused to pop a vitamin supplement into his mouth before answering the question; grinning inwardly as Senator Billings looked on impatiently, “Yes, Senator. You need to determine the exact spot the Earth occupied at the specific time you wish to travel to. Even with the new AI computers this is a daunting obstacle.”
“Why is that?” Billings asked.
“Since the universe is expanding at tremendous speeds, gentlemen, it is difficult, almost impossible, to determine that exact spot we would need because we have no fixed frame of reference. In response to that particular question, my staff is working on extrapolating such positions by measuring the galactic motion compared to distant quasars. Even this, though, is a long shot. At best we will get approximations only.”
Senator Kiles, from Europe 1, questioned, “Assuming you overcame this initial obstacle, Doctor; what other problems would you have to overcome?”
Senator Kiles was the veteran member of the committee. He had served uneventfully in his office for thirty years. He was a mediocre Senator as far as Senators went. At the risk of stereotyping, Benjamin thought he was even predictable — like most Englishmen. He had nothing to gain or lose by the outcome of this investigation. He had a sturdy reputation and very little could damage that. Billings needed to uncover dirt within EarthCo. His reputation among his colleagues needed major renovation. Nyguen also needed the publicity of uncovering scandal and illegal deeds within the company. Asia 2 was considered the “barbarian” sector — it’s economic and social standards not yet up to the planetary minimum. Nyguen was fighting for the pride of his people. Billings and Nyguen — a dangerous combination.
Benjamin frowned, thinking on the question, “The most obvious and largest problem, of course, would be the process of time traveling itself. We still have no real evidence that time travel is possible. If it is possible, by what means would we accomplish it?”
Senator Billings pursed his lips, inserting his ID into the infonet. Jacking into the infonet during official proceedings was frowned upon, but Senator Billings was less concerned for appearances than most. Charges of scandal and personal improprieties followed him everywhere. Never enough to seriously hurt his reputation, but enough for most politicians to avoid him.
Senator Kiles looked away in disgust, “Please proceed, Doctor.”
Benjamin cleared his throat, “Er, we would also experience the problem of transport. The farther back in time you wished to go, the further away from our present position we would have to travel. You could not simply have a time machine here on Earth. You would have to build it into a ship and that ship would have to travel to the desired spot before we could even begin the time traveling process. The other option is to initiate the time travel process here on Earth and, once in the proper time, travel to the correct spot. Of course, if we were even off by a centimeter, we would…”
“Excuse me for interrupting Doctor,” Senator Billings smiled at his rudeness as he dabbed water from his eyes; the only side-effect to jacking into the net, “but I would like to refer to an earlier statement.”
Inwardly, Benjamin felt his little warning bells go off. “By all means, Senator.” He waved his hand and finished lamely, “After all, this is your hearing, not mine.”
“True Doctor. You mentioned a moment ago that you do not know the means by which we could travel in time. Is that correct?”
“Well, yes. There are theories and few hypothesis’ out there, but nothing definitive.”
“Could a large fusion reaction cause time travel?”
Benjamin smiled, “It has been formulated that an energy source of sufficient magnitude might breach the space/time barrier, but the energies involved would be far beyond our current level of technology.”
Billings continued, unperturbed, “Is it true, Doctor, that one of your research vessels experienced a problem with it’s fusion reactor outside the Oort cloud eight months ago?”
“Yes it is, Senator. That is public knowledge, available at any infonet outlet in the world.”
Senator Nyguen picked up that line of reasoning. He had apparently been waiting for someone else to bring it up, “Two independent, non-EarthCo vessels picked up some extremely erratic readings shortly after your fusion reactor problem in the same area. An expert from Unified Industries has mentioned that the readings picked up was a space/time disturbance.”
Senator Billings stood, slapping his large hands on the table. “Your fusion “accident” was really an experiment in time travel wasn’t it Doctor?”
A look of angered shock slammed itself onto Benjamin’s face. “Really, Senator. The PLN stopped all temporal research fifty years ago after Unified Industries manufactured a small “time-vortex” near the Jovian colonies. If you remember, the entire vessel conducting the experiment was shredded by forces that were completely off the scale.”
“Then what was it that our ships picked up, if it wasn’t a temporal disturbance?” Billings leaned forward, ever the predator.
Senator Kiles placed a restraining hand on Senator Billing’s shoulder. Slowly, almost reluctantly, Senator Billings let his massive bulk sink back into the seat behind him. Only after he sat down did Senator Kiles speak.
“Dr. Motich, can a nuclear reaction cause a temporal disturbance or allow time travel?”
Benjamin took a breath and glared at Senator Billings, “Theoretically, it is possible, Senator, but we do not have the means to cause a reaction large enough.”
“Why is that, Doctor?”
Benjamin spread his arms wide, “If the Sun can’t do it, what chance do we have of creating a reaction powerful enough to breach the time/space barrier?”
Senator Kiles stood and proffered his hand, “Thank you Dr. Motich. I think we’ve heard enough for today. Indeed, this almost wraps up our investigation. Of course, you won’t mind if we tour your facilities, would you?”
Benjamin shook the outstretched hand. “Of course not Senator. The day is almost over, would you like to tour our operation tomorrow morning?”
Senator Billings heaved himself up, “Now will be fine, Doctor.”
Senator Nyguen gave Billings an icy stare, “Please contain yourself – Senator.” He turned back to Benjamin, “Tomorrow morning will be excellent Doctor. Thank You.”