The Space Machine
Thanks to the Hilbert Anomaly, Hilbert Space is full of sentient life. Even in places where one does not suspect, in forms, one is not familiar with, or in ways, one does not consider. Nevertheless, all sentients believe that they are the archetype of life itself, and all other races are just small variations on their (obviously original) design. This believe is encouraged by the fact, that most sentients only interact – or in some case can only interact – with species that are relatively similar to themselves. If there is too much difference in size, habitat or life expectancy, different species tend to have no contact to each other.
One such species, one that had no contact with any other, are the Creecree. They live on a planet that is known as Teklara Beta for most races of Hilbert Space. The Creecree, however, have no name for their planet. They have no need for it. Although they are scientifically advanced, they lack the concept of a planet. With only a few millimeters in size they do not need it. Furthermore they live on a two dimensional plane, unable to leave it, or perceive anything outside it. This is true for quite a few races in Hilbert Space, but what makes the Creecree really unique, is that they also have no concept of time. They simply do not need it.
To many races, Teklara Beta is a very boring planet. It seems uninhabited and is basically a giant sphere of dead water. The only interesting thing is a big water vortex that had swirled around for thousands of years and is assumed to keep on swirling for a few thousand more. And in exactly this vortex, the Creecree live. Their ancestors used the vortex to gain speed and catch unsuspecting plankton, but since then, the Creecree evolved.
They went through neolithic revolution and began to heard plankton, they had an industrial revolution, where they began to use machines to tend to their plankton and most of them are now in the stage of complete automation, where robots not only tend to the plankton, but also build and maintain themselves – all that while swirling around in the vortex.
Since Creecree are too small to move against the stream, evolution decided to scrap this skill altogether, which is why they only move, live and exist in a plane perpendicular to the current of the vortex. And also their robots, built after their own image, are confined to that constantly moving frame of reference. They as well, move at the same speed as the water at all times. This of course had many ramifications, for example that members of different tribes can be on totally different technological levels, since they can not interact with each other, can not even know of each other’s existence, although they are only separated by a few meters. The most prominent effect of living in the vortex, however, is the Creecree’s lack of the concept of time. Because of their constant movement they see everything that happens to them as an effect of space, something they can measure by looking down at the bottom of the sea, where the color and structure gradually changes, rather than time, an elusive idea, which most species only fully understand shortly before they run out of it. Naturally, the Creecree measure everything in distances and the notion of time is completely obsolete for them.
The average life expectancy of a Creecree is one kilometer, in some special cases and with the help of modern medicine a Creecree is able to live to the proud age of two kilometers. However, since the whole vortex is several thousand kilometers in diameter, a whole rotation around the vortex takes much longer than the Creecree can collectively remember. For them, the vortex simply extends indefinitely. It obviously must have a beginning, the place where the world was created, but no foreseeable end. However for several hundreds of meters now, Creecree scientists had warned, that there will be a foreseeable end for all Creecree, if they continue on their path. One such scientist was Professor Weppel, a Creecree that went, where no Creecree had been before him: back in space.
“You do not understand! Nobody does. There is not enough space!” Weppel shouted.
“Not that again,” another Professor groaned. “Not another lecture on sustainability. Who invited Weppel to this conference anyway, he never contributes anything useful. We know that the temperature had been rising for the last kilometers, but there is no evidence that this is our fault. Maybe it is just a natural occurrence, maybe the temperature rises with every meter. In any case, all the phenomena you mentioned in your talk will only take effect in several kilometers. Our children will be able to find a solution for all of these problems, everybody agrees on this. We can not waste any resources, not with the bad plankton harvests right now.”
“That is exactly the problem!” Professor Weppel screamed. “Why does nobody listen? The bad harvest is caused by all the pollution. And we cannot let our children solve these problems, because there will be no children. We are running out of space already. A few hundred meters tops, then it will all be over. No plankton, no life, nothing.”
“So what do you propose? Should we stop our economy altogether? Maybe even in the next few centimeters?”
The audience laughed.
“It is far too late for that,” Weppel assured the other scientists. “We did too much damage in the last meters alone, nature will not recover from that. This is why my proposal is far more drastic. We have to construct a space machine.”
Again, the audience broke out into laughter.
One of the older professors stated what was obvious for everyone. “This is ludicrous. Everyone knows that space travel only exists in science fiction. Space flows linear, as do all Creecree, as does everything. There is no way to travel back in space.”
“I disagree,” Weppel noted proudly. “I even have a schematic for a working space machine. And I will construct it, with or without the backing of the council. Even if it takes me several hundreds of meters. It is the only way to save the Creecree.”
“You are serious?” the old professor asked. “Space travel? How would that even work? Suppose you travel back in space, suppose a few hundred meters, back to a space where you are not born yet. Suppose you meet your father there. What would happen if you would kill him? Without him you would not be born. So who would build the space machine? Who would go back in space? Who would kill your father? You see the paradox here?”
“That is true,” another scientist agreed. “This conversation here is proof enough that you will never succeed in building a space machine. If you would be able to do it, even if it takes you hundreds of meters, the first thing you would do is travel back in space to exactly this place, just to prove us wrong.” He paused for a bit. “And apparently you do not. End of story, space travel is not possible.”
“To be honest,” Weppel admitted, “I have no explanations for the paradoxes you mentioned. I don’t know the rules of space travel. I don’t know what will happen to me, or what will happen to the rest of the world. But I know, that we will all perish if I do nothing. So I hereby promise you, that I will build a space machine and I will prove beyond any doubt, that space travel is not only possible, but in fact the only way to avoid our own extinction!”
Without the support of his colleagues, it took Weppel nearly 100 meters to build the device he called the Space Sled. At first he was able to work in his laboratory, but after several meters he was expelled and had to work in secrecy. He had always dreamed of launching his machine in a huge ceremony, but this was now impossible. Even his most loyal believers lost faith in him eventually after meters of failure after failure.
After many meters of hard work, however, the Space Sled was finally finished. It had enough room for one Creecree and a couple of measuring devices, but not much more. Weppel tried to keep it simple. Never before had a Creecree traveled back in space, so he had no idea on the effects such a trip would have on a Creecree body. Normally Creecree only move forward in space at a constant pace; naturally at exactly one meter per meter. Any other form of translation was purely hypothetical.
Weppel entered the space machine. He had thought of some inspirational words to say in such a situation, but without a ceremony or even somebody that listened to him, that made no sense. He punched in the space coordinates. Nearly 100 meters back in space, exactly that millimeter of the symposium, where he had been humiliated. Weppel was determined to prove everybody wrong or at least die trying. He pulled a big switch and the Space Sled sprung to life. And suddenly it moved. Not only perpendicular to the vortex, a plain every Creecree can navigate with ease, but also back in space, to a space that came before. It was a strange sensation. Although Weppel did not move away from the shed he had built his machine in, it vanished from his field of view. This was strange for him, since he was sure the shed existed many meters ago, he saw it with his own eyes. Weppel dismissed this notion as a effect of space travel. Maybe a hallucination, or maybe he was momentarily blind to all things that did not traveled with him.
He arrived at his destination after a short space, that he was unable to measure. According to his instruments he was now nearly 100 meters in the past, again in sync with the rest of the world, moving at one meter per meter. Still, Weppel’s shed was nowhere to be seen. Weppel was unable to spot anything that hinted at the Creecree civilization. There were no buildings, no other Creecree, nothing. For many centimeters Weppel wandered around, but he saw nothing except a large amount of plankton. He was completely alone with his time machine. However, all his instruments agreed, that he did went back in space. The pollution and temperature were lower, exactly at the value they had nearly 100 meters ago, but there was no sign of any civilization. Was this an effect of space travel? Was this an alternate dimension, or a different space line? Did he kill somebody’s father, or even everybody’s father somehow? He had no way of being sure.
Although not what he had expected, the experiment was a success. He had to go back, back to his shed, back to the other Creecree, to show them, that space travel actually works. He got back into the Space Sled and entered the coordinates of his original position, relative to him nearly hundred meters away. This time he tried to concentrate on the world around him in order to better understand how space travel even works. He saw little dots of plankton flashing into and out of existence at seemingly arbitrary positions, but no Creecree, no permanent structures of any kind, although he was sure that they were supposed to be there. To his great surprise, Weppel never arrived at his shed. Even though the coordinates were exactly right, all he found was plankton, but only very few. Again there were no Creecree, no buildings, nothing. Whatever he did hundred meters ago must have had repercussions for future space. Apparently Weppel was the only survivor. He did not understand space travel and his hubris cost all other Creecree their life. Or even worse, their whole existence, everything they were hundreds of meters ago and everything they will be, many meters in the future.
Realizing what he had done, Weppel could not go on. The only direction for him now was back. Back to a space, where he first thought about time travel, or even further back, to a space where his father lived or his grandfather. Weppel had to find a way to undo the catastrophe he had caused. He started the Space Sled and proceeded to move backwards in space. He was constantly on the lookout for other Creecree, or at least signs of them, but all he saw was plankton. More and more plankton, the farther he went back in space. Also the temperature sank, as well as the pollution, as his instruments indicated. He traveled for so long, that he eventually lost track of space completely, only stopping to consume plankton, of which there was plenty. Soon he was able to move through space at great speed, but still – no sign of any Creecree.
Just before he was about to give up hope, he saw a small tent, flashing into existence and vanishing several millimeters later. First he thought he was hallucinating, but as he reversed slowly the tent appeared again, right outside the Space Sled. He stopped it and exited. He had really found signs of civilization, hundreds of kilometers in the past. And not only that, after a short while other Creecree arrived near the Space Sled. Weppel greeted them, but they did not understand, which was logical from his point of view. Language had changed in the last kilometers, of course these creatures were unable to speak to him. Weppel took a last look at the Space Sled and its instruments. Temperature was ideal for plankton and there was no sign of pollution whatsoever. This space was some kind of paradise, and Weppel wanted to keep it that way. He made a grave decision, but the only one that seemed right to him, the only one that would ensure the survival of the Creecree. He put some coordinates into the Space Sled at random and then sent it on its way. Weppel himself decided to stay with his ancestors, learn their language and teach them everything he thought is important. And now more than anytime it was clear to him what really was important. He did not teach them about science, machines or technology, instead he taught them to live in harmony with nature and with each other and to keep the world a paradise for kilometers to come. And most importantly, he told them stories about space travelers and he made sure, that everyone knew that these were just stories. After all, traveling through space is only possible in science fiction.
â€œNano Stories from Hilbert Spaceâ€ are very short stories (no longer than 4000 words each) set in the whimsical world of Hilbert Space. Hilbert Space, a very special region of the universe, is a rather unique place. Inhabited by dozens of space faring civilizations and spanning hundreds of systems, it is home to thousands of stories worth telling. While the laws of physics, which lead to the rest of space being quite dull and boring for the most part, are acknowledged here, Hilbert Space is known to find many workarounds, loopholes, and compromises that ensure that it is a dangerous, yet also extremely entertaining domain. â€œThe Space Machineâ€ is the story of a race of stubborn aliens, who do not believe that traveling through space is physically possible. They also deny the concept of time altogether. Only one scientist amongst them disagrees and attempts the impossible: Traveling back in space.