ADVENTURE IN A TIME WARP
by GARDNER F. FOX
Originally published in The Flash issue #3 in 1940
THE space patrol boat dropped through the protecting layer of Earth atmosphere and looped into a graceful glide. Inside the fused diamond windows could be seen the heads of two men. One was a bearded scientist, Doctor Edward Drokker, manipulating the controls of the space ship, and beside him, peering through the diamond panes, was a young, black-haired man with eager blue eyes and smiling lips.
"You've discovered another planet, doctor," cried the young man. "You've done it again! How ..."
"What are you talking about, Rolf?" muttered the older man, his voice muffled as he bent low to loosen a caught wire. "What new planet?"
The young man, Rolf Andrews, turned a laughing face toward, his companion. Playfully he shoved the other man's shoulder.
"You know well enough what I'm talking about. Here we are dropping downwards at four hundred miles an hour on an uncharted planet and you're still joking. Where did you think you were back on the Earth?"
Something in the tone of the younger man's voice made Doctor Drokker lift his iron-gray head and peer through his spectacles at the planet unfolding before them. They were returning from a two-year long survey of the Solar system, charting its paths and space-ways for the newly formed Interstellar Airways Company. They had rocketed upwards from the surface of the Earth in the year 2137 and by his calculations, it should be the year 2139, the year set for the first government-sponsored commercial space flyer to take off for Mars.
Drokker muttered under his breath. This was a different planet under their rounded fuselage! The old familiar landmarks! Where were they! Where was the outline of Europe? Of Africa? Of big Asia? A numbing thought came to Doctor Drokker, but he shook his head, and with a wintry smile, turned to his calculating machine.
"Rolf," he said slowly, after a little while, "do you know the name of the planet our ship is over? No? I shall tell you—it is Earth!”
Rolf stifled an exclamation, but his voice was incredulous as he snapped out, "Earth. That array of Islands and water—Earth! Doctor, your machine is wrong. It has to be wrong!"
But Doctor Drokker shook his head slowly.
The machine is not wrong, nor am I wrong, either. I'll tell you what has happened. Or perhaps you can guess?"
"A time warp!" Rolf cried excitedly. "We struck a time warp."
"Exactly," Doctor Drokker nodded. "Time is curved, and like a glass mirror, follows a regular pattern. But occasionally there is a flaw in the mirror—so also do flaws in time occur. That is what a time warp is. We are probably many years ahead of our own era!"
Rolf sat down and leaned against a table. His mind was a jumble of curious thoughts. If they had struck a time warp, what year was it on the Earth below? Did any civilized nations still exist? He looked at Doctor Drokker and felt that the same thoughts were engrossing his interest as he stared out of the diamond windows.
"Rolf, I believe we are a thousand years in the future! Do you note the many Islands where Europe, Africa and Asia should be? That is what our geologers told us would happen, if the climate became increasingly mild, as it became about the year 1920 or there bouts! The ice at the poles would melt and split the earth surfaces into islands and archipelagoes!"
Rolf took a deep breath, then asked, "Do—do you think any people still live down there? Or are we the last human beings in the Universe?"
"That is what I intend to learn. Rolf, get your station and take the flyer down slowly. Cruise along at about two hundred miles an hour!"
The space flyer came out of its sheer drop and leveled off a few thousand feet above the surface of this strange world. Rolf kept peering over the side of the flyer, staring excitedly through the glass reflector that showed bodies of land and water beneath the ship.
Doctor, look!" cried Rolf in a little while, "Look below us!"
Spread out beneath their ship was a gigantic city, a city of incredible loveliness, with high, pointed spires and ramparts that seemed like streets for the passage of small cars. Everywhere Rolf looked there was the same glowing whiteness of the city—it seemed as if made from the purest alabaster!
"Let's go down, doctor!" Rolf pleaded, and as the doctor nodded, Rolf swung over his controls and nosed swiftly downward, to drop gently on a flat surface that at one time had apparently been a plane landing.
Rolf was out of the ship in one bound, to stare around him at the deserted loveliness of this deserted city. As Doctor Drokker came up to him, he turned to ask a question.
"Doctor, why is this city deserted? I see no sign of human habitation at all!”
"Queer, very queer," replied the doctor. "Let us search the city, Rolf Perhaps we can find a clue to the mystery! We shall meet at the ship within two hours."
Rolf swung off on his mission with mixed feelings. Imagine, a youth or the twenty-second century, exploring a city built almost a thousand year's after he should have died! He shivered slightly. It was an unnerving thought!
He walked into an arched room filled with queer instruments that looked like a glorified television set. There on the wall was a large chromium screen. A television set it was, but one farther advanced than any Rolf had ever seen!
"Rolf Andrews! Rolf Andrews!"
Rolf almost jumped out of his skin! Who in heaven's name could be calling his name—of course, Doctor Drokker! He grinned in sudden relief.
"I'm coming, Doctor," he called aloud. And then stood rigid with amazement!
"This is not Doctor Drokker speaking." said the voice. "I am Jak Donven, President of the Amerikkas. Look in the screen, Can you not see me?"
Rolf turned on his heel and faced the chromium screen. Only now it was not chromium—but real, and a real person sat within! Rolf realized suddenly that he was looking at a three dimensional picture, with height, width and thickness!
"Why do you call me?" asked Rolf. "And how do you happen to know my name?”
"Your name is familiar to all peoples of the Earth. Are you not the Deliverer? You, and Doctor Drokker! Yes, I know all about you, how you hit a time warp and landed on the Earth a thousand years since you left it! But you and Doctor Drokker must come to see me. I live, with what is left of the peoples of the Earth, in Kikago. Come quickly, for there is no time to lose! The green ones are even now liable to discover you!"
The picture on the screen flashed off, leaving Rolf with a hundred questions on his tongue. But he stilled his curiosity and started in search of Doctor Drokker. He found him standing before two pictures. One of them was a picture of the Doctor, and the other was a picture of—himself!
"Is that you, Rolf? Come here. Do you see what I see? Are those our pictures? Or what?"
"I guess, they are, Doctor," Rolf sighed. Things were becoming much too confused for him to try to understand. He decided to go along in his usual carefree manner, and let what happened—happen!
On their way to the ship, Rolf told Doctor Drokker all about the chromium screen, and the President of the Amerikkas, and the threat of the green ones! Doctor Drokker listened quietly, head cocked to one side, nodding occasionally.
"Let me explain. History knows that we came from the past just in time to destroy an invading army. History knows this because we will return to our own day and age and tell our people all about it. Our historians of 2139 put our story down in history! We will have to prove it to them, of course. I'll see if I can't get a recording of characters and news events of this year for our own era!"
No sooner had Rolf circled his space ship above the flat landing-deck of Kikago, than President Jak Donven appeared on the landing to greet them. With tears in his eyes, he shook their hands and drew them into a flat little car that swept them swiftly through the city.
Rolf had little time to drink in the marvels of this city of the future. He was too engrossed in what President Jak Donven was saying.
We of the world of the year 3260 looked forward eagerly to your coming. It was recorded in history over a thousand years ago that you two would land and save humanity from the green ones! And here you are!
Of course, we did not know just when you were to land, for in the passage of a thousand years, and the tidal inundations that destroyed Noo Yok and all the coastal cities, much important information was lost. But we did know you were coming—and that is the main thing!"
"In the year 3040 the green ones came from the Moon. We of Earth have been a peace-loving people for hundreds of years. We had no guns, no bullets, nothing to fight off the ferocious green ones. They swarmed over us like flies. Here in Kikago, that is protected by a curtain of force, is the last of humanity.
"You have guns," said Jak Donven. “Go forth and slay the green ones. They are few, and live in what was—look!”
The President's hysterical screech made Rolf's hair stand on end. Rolf leaped to the window, and choked back a cry. High in the heavens hung a great ship. Leaning over its sides were monstrous men, green, with large heads and eyes, firing guns at the hapless earth people who were tilling the fields beyond the circle of the force belt.
Rolf looked at Doctor Drokker, and Doctor Drokker looked at Rolf with amazement. How were two men to destroy hordes of invaders!
"I'll try anything once," he said. "Come on, Doctor!"
Don't Miss Next Month's Thrilling Climax to This Adventure in the Year 3260.