Chapter 1 A Problem Lacking Figures
The first step to reaching the Omega Point was taken in 1875 in the city of Leipzig, Germany. It was in early January when my airship had at last been completed: the Chronostat or time craft. It was a type of craft, similar to a dirigible, but this aircraft was built to travel through time as well as air. This dirigible was suspended by four large bags of hydrogen heated by four steam vents. The amount of coal required for this airship was enormous. Each of the furnaces was sealed off below the keel of the vessel, as to not expose the flammable gas to the direct fires of the coals. So much heat was required for the vessel in order to support the massive compartment that projected out from its keel. This compartment held within it the revolutionary machine that would allow my Chronostat to travel through time.
Yes, time travel was a very interesting and yet confusing prospect to me. My plan was vague, but I had faith that it would succeed. It relied completely upon a theory that my uncle formulated: A theory of infinite mass. Now this went against every accepted law of the day that concerned mass, but my uncle was no everyday man. His idea was genius. It stated that all mass was merely excess space that the Universe stored in microscopic dimensions. He believed that if one could create enough energy, these dimensions could be rent open, allowing a limitless supply of mass to be utilized. That was exactly what I intended to do.
Within the center of my time machine were two lone electrons flying unhindered through a vacuum. The particles would eventually create enough energy that the vacuum would fluctuate, unlocking one of those dimensions of limitless mass. Though, now the question arose as to what I would do with that mass. Of course, allowing such mass to build up within the Chronostat would be detrimental to not only my own being but the entire Universe. All of existence would be pulled into the ever-expanding rift of infinite mass until it collapsed in on itself, resulting in the destruction of the entire physical world . . . at least, so my uncle had told me.
I must admit that my plan was ingenious. Upon the dimension’s breach, I would release the infinite mass as two, parallel, one-dimensional lines that would loop indefinitely. If this could be achieved, then the mass would not be able to expand and remain stable. The Chronostat would then ride these lines like any other rail, looping indefinitely until it reached such a high speed that it would bend space-time and traverse that fourth dimension. The direction of the loop would determine whether the Chronostat traveled into the past or future. Once I reached my intended destination, I would release a single proton into the vacuum, immediately halting the electron’s rapid repulsion and closing the rift. The trip would be similar to a slingshot with an unlimited amount of draw. It could launch me out at any point in space-time I desired.
Now, let it be known that I was no fool. I had taken precautions to construct this massive vessel beneath my workshop, outside of the city. I knew well what would happen if any information was released about my experiment. During this constant race for industrialization in Europe, there were two mountains looming over the Reich. Their names were Britain and France, the latter was a particular thorn to us. Angered by their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, France was anxiously awaiting its opportunity to strike back. Both of these countries were industrially superior to my country which had only just been unified four years prior.
I was not a particularly young man, being six and twenty years of age, I had fought in this short conflict and was a stout nationalist. After all, I had built the Chronostat not for science nor for personal gain, but for my country, the Reich. I was an engineer of no small skill and was known all throughout Saxony during those days. I had effectively acquired a monopoly on steam engines, attaining much fame. Now, Germany was weak in engineering and had had to import its engines from Britain at a less than reasonable price. However, all of Europe had recently gone into a depression, and the Imperial Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck had closed free trade. I took full advantage of this opportunity and began building steam engines to sell in Leipzig and throughout Saxony.
My success in this endeavor was beyond anything I had imagined, yet I showed no pride in these economic achievements. My pockets quickly became substantially laden; however, instead of using this money to perhaps expand my business and hire laborers, as one might expect from an entrepreneur, I used this wealth to feed my own nationalism. Some of my colleagues, who were few and far between, were concerned for this “addiction” of mine, and the other scientists of Leipzig ridiculed me for using engineering as if it were a sword to offer a king. There was some reason in their scorn, for I was by no means a man of philosophy. I saw the world in three kingdoms: Vegetation, Animal, and Mineral, and through these three kingdoms was life made possible. As narrow as my sight may have been, there was one beacon of light that constantly stood before me, causing me to wonder if there was possibly more to life: My sister, Edith.
Now Edith’s mind was in every way contrary to mine. She never understood the Sciences; especially, those required for industry. Instead, she was more interested in culture and the Arts. She had played her violin in Leipzig’s orchestra since she was fifteen. After the war, she quickly rose to become concertmaster. There was one thing that we had in common. It was that she was also rejected from society, for even the thought of a woman being in an orchestra, let alone concertmaster, was alien to the people of that day. Her fellow musicians also thought her to have more than a few oddities. Now, it cannot be doubted that I loved my sister above all things on the Earth, which was all I knew. She had constantly supported me through this endeavor of building the Chronostat, and even funded me on many occasions. Despite this, there was one thing that I could not stand about my sister: She was Catholic. Four years ago, I myself had followed the Catholic faith. However, after Bismarck launched the Kulturkampf which stated that the Church was a threat to the Reich’s power, I immediately left the church and became a Protestant.
Now, my plans for the Chronostat were quite simple. I would travel into the future and acquire vast technology for the benefit of the Reich. I would make no other attempts to alter space-time. I was even willing to learn this advanced technology and return to 1875 to give it form. However, I realized that no matter what path I took, in the future, these people would consider me the father of their modern society. I had no desire for personal gain, but the thought of how these people would react to seeing their era’s greatest scientist appear before them in the flesh was ever present in my mind.
It was on January 8th, 1875 that our grand adventure began. I entered my private workshop outside of Leipzig and retired to the basement where the Chronostat was nearly ready for launch. I worked constantly throughout the bleak hours of the dawn, preparing it for flight. I had planned its launch for four o’clock the next morning. I had designed this basement as an underground hanger for the airship. The earth would roll back and the Chronostat would ascend into the night. The vessel and I would vanish one hundred years into the future, but to any awed spectators, the airship would simply vanish and return a moment later, having existed several days in the future. At least, that’s what I had planned.
My sister entered the workshop at ten o’clock as she had made a habit of visiting me every morning.
“Good morning, Conrad!” Edith exclaimed, walking through the door. “I see that you’re hard at work, as usual.”
I looked up from my scattered blueprints and smiled. Edith was wearing a black dress, her orchestra uniform, as she was seldom found wearing anything else. Her hair was long and golden as fields of wheat swaying in the wind just before harvest. She was a small and frail girl but strong of heart as any I ever knew. She was merely twenty years old, but, being the only guidance in my life, Edith appeared much older in my eyes.
“Good morning. I trust that you have fared well, Edith?” I said arising from my desk.
I walked over to my sister and embraced her.
“I have. How is your project coming along, Conrad?” She asked inquisitively.
I could not help but smile with pride.
“If I work through the night, the Chronostat will be in the air by tomorrow morning.”
She frowned. “You’re going to work all night long?”
“Yes, I intend to. Is something the matter?”
“Well, It’s just that you haven’t attended any of my performances since you began working on your project. You haven’t spent any time for yourself these past four years, so I thought this would be a nice way for you to relax.” She explained, staring down at the floor.
I frowned when I thought only of the delay this would cause me.
“These final preparations are very crucial. If one thing is out of place then—” I stopped when it became apparent that my sister was struggling to hold back her tears, and I knew how much she hated to cry in front of me.
“Well, I suppose I can suffer a minor delay such as this, and I haven’t heard you play ever since you became concertmaster . . .” I said hastily, trying to calm her down.
“Oh, thank you, Conrad! It’s at seven o’clock. I have to go to rehearsal. See you tonight!”
“You’re leaving already? But you didn’t even take off your coat!” I exclaimed.
“Sorry, but I have to go. It’s a pretty big concert tonight.”
“I am aware, but I must speak with you about the Chronostat. It’s very important!” I yelled urgently.
“That’s fine, but we can talk after the concert. Goodbye!” Edith said as she walked out the door and into the snow.
I ran to the window and watched her small form begin to disappear into the fog.
I failed to control my patience and ran out of my workshop. I called out to her, “Edith, Wait!”
She turned around to face me.
“Will you travel with me tomorrow, into the future?” I asked fervently.
Edith stared at me and then up at the sky. At first, I wasn’t sure that she even heard me.
“I only want us to spend all of our days together.” I sighed. “When I return, I might be an old man. If I return, that is.”
She smiled and I was relieved.
“All right.” She laughed pleasantly. “I’ll go with you, but promise me that you’ll really listen and try to enjoy the music tonight.”
I paused and my anxiety returned.
“Oh, of course.” I said uneasily, but managed a smile.
She thanked me and walked off toward the city. I returned to my workshop, feeling like a fool, and continued my preparations, however, the thought of my promise lingered and it troubled me greatly. So anxious did those few words make me, that it was ten minutes past seven when I finally remembered the concert itself.
“Ah! Idiot, I’m late!” I shouted as I ran up the stairs to my room.
I threw on my military uniform, the only formal outfit I had, and ran to Leipzig. I found the concert hall and was seated at half past. I immediately found my sister seated in the first chair of the violin section. She looked at me out of the corner of her eye and smiled. I chose a seat in the back where I would be away from anyone who gossiped about Edith or me as many of the audience members had already begun to do.
The engineer began listening to the music as best he could, but it was as the engineer had expected. He felt nothing but the vibrations off of the interior plates of the instruments escape through their F-holes. It was all that the engineer heard. The notes would rise and fall, but he knew that the strings were simply being cut into fractions, increasing or lowering the pitch of the vibrations by said fraction. The sound would be soft and then loud, but he saw it only as a change in pressure upon the strings. The engineer felt nothing from the music save exactly what he heard, and he hated it. No emotions stirred within him. His mind did not drift off to beautiful places or distant memories. The engineer understood exactly how all of the instruments functioned and yet he could not understand how to enjoy their music. This frustrated the engineer and he became increasingly agitated throughout the concert until he finally gave up and decided to simply watch my sister.
As the performance neared its end, a tall gray-haired man sat down next to him.
The man sighed. “It certainly is beautiful isn’t it?”
The engineer made no response.
“You wouldn’t happen to be Conrad Hartwin, would you?” He asked inquisitively.
“I am. Do you need an engine or something of the like?” The engineer asked, not taking his eyes off of my sister.
“No, I have come on behalf of the Kaiser. He is aware of your project.” The man said sternly.
The engineer shifted in his seat but remained entranced by my sister’s talent which he could not appreciate.
“How? How does he know?” I asked quietly.
“That is of no importance. He wishes to see you off personally. He has high hopes for you, Mr. Hartwin. Where will you be conducting the experiment?”
“It will be at my workshop just outside the city. I hope to leave tomorrow morning. It will not take long. As soon as I go into the future, I’ll return with the technology to that very point in time following my departure.” I explained as best I could over my internal conflict.
“I see. Well, the Kaiser had not expected you to leave so soon. I’m afraid he won’t be able to attend, but he wishes for you to write a journal while you are in the future, not about this future technology that you will acquire, but the society itself. He wishes to know what the world is like in the future, what becomes of the Reich, how the Great War will begin, and who holds all of the power.” The man explained solemnly.
“I would be proud to serve my Kaiser, but one cannot change the future. Whatever actions we take to avoid these future events will simply cancel out or perhaps be the very cause of them. The future has already accounted for all of our actions.” I said flatly.
He knitted his brow. “Just do as the Kaiser orders. Enjoy the show.” The man said as he arose from his seat.
After that, the concert ended with its finale, yet again, the engineer could feel no emotion or excitement from its power. The orchestra received a standing ovation at the end. The engineer stood for my sister and nothing more.
I quietly left the concert hall and waited outside for Edith. The engineer watched as the other attendants passed by him, commenting on various parts of the performance. He could not even understand the conversations they were having. How could a sound be rich? How could a chord be chilling? How could the music inspire you? How could it do any of this if it was simply a sequence of various vibrations, their pitches being altered by strings being cut into fractions? The engineer could not answer these questions and it infuriated him.
As the engineer pondered these thoughts, Edith suddenly stepped in front of him. She laughed when he did not notice her and he returned to reality. I looked down at her and smiled.
“Sorry to keep you waiting Conrad. Did you enjoy the show?” She asked excitedly.
“Yes, you were excellent. I apologize for my late arrival. I was caught up in my work.”
“It’s fine.” She assured me. “Would you walk me back to your workshop?”
We locked arms and began walking down the street.
“What was your favorite piece?” Edith asked me after some time.
The engineer began to think back to all of the pieces they had played, but he could hardly tell one from the other. They were all the same to him―simple vibrations without any expression.
“I enjoyed all of them equally,” he finally answered.
“What? There has to be one that you really liked.” Edith said, clasping tighter around his arm.
“I-I enjoyed your solo. You played beautifully.” The engineer said, wiping the sweat from his brow.
“But I had two solos. Which one are you referring to?” She asked confusedly
The engineer thought again for a long time. He could not even distinguish between my sister’s two solos. They were both the same to him.
“The second one. I enjoyed it more.” He said, simply to answer her question.
“Really? That one was so sad. Do you like feeling sad, Conrad?” She sighed deeply. “Did it make you think of mother or maybe a friend you lost in the war? It always makes me think of mother. I mean, I know I was too young to remember her, but it still hurts to know that she’s gone.”
The engineer gripped the hilt of his sword tightly in frustration. Edith noticed and looked up at him with concern.
“How . . . Edith, how do you feel emotions from the music? I don’t understand! I listened as hard as I could, Edith, but I couldn’t feel anything! It was all the same to me, one piece sounding no different from the next! I couldn’t feel any emotion from the music, and it never made me reminisce over anything from my past. Please, Edith, tell me how it is that you can interpret feelings from the music? How is it that you relate the sounds with your memories, memories of someone who died shortly after you were born?” The engineer implored her.
Edith smiled and sat her violin case down on the street. She then held both of my hands. I could feel how tense they were from playing so long.
“It’s simple. You just have to feel it in your heart. Don’t think about anything else and just listen to the sound. Close your eyes if you have to. Don’t pay any attention to the science behind it, Conrad. Simply listen to the music itself.” She frowned. “Oh, and when I say it makes me think of mother, I don’t literally mean that it brings back memories of her. It just makes me think of how sad it must have been and how much I wish she were here.” Edith explained slowly and with much patience.
“I will try, but I still do not understand. The science is the music―the vibrations being transferred from the strings to the interior plates and then out of the instrument.” The engineer sighed.
“Then just think of it as something that has no science behind it, something that surpasses all human understanding and make it your own.” She said happily.
“I will try, but I cannot ignore natural laws, the laws that govern our universe.” The engineer concluded, unsatisfied as he was.
“Perhaps the order of our universe goes beyond laws.” Edith murmured as she stared up at the stars.
The engineer looked up with her, but saw only orbs of gaseous matter held together by their own gravity that produced varying amounts of light energy corresponding with their different temperatures and surface area.
“It’s not important, Conrad. You know a lot more about mathematics and science than I do. You shouldn’t let it bother you.” Edith said as she picked up her violin and continued walking.
The engineer could not understand how his sister could act so calmly about something as serious as this. He felt so empty and hollow during the performance, almost as if he had lost a part of himself. As we continued down the street, the engineer was still upset over his inability to comprehend the music.
“You look very handsome in your uniform. Did any women speak with you?” She asked, trying to cheer me up.
“Ha! No, I’d say that most of the women in Leipzig avoid me.” I laughed. “I’m not exactly appreciated in the city. Though, I suppose I am quite different.”
“You’re no different from anyone else in all of Saxony, in all the Reich! They would understand! They would appreciate you if they knew what you sacrificed to unify our people!” Edith yelled furiously.
“Calm down, Edith. You’re attracting attention.” I whispered in her ear.
“Good! I want them to hear me!” She shouted, making no effort to lower her voice.
I sighed and rolled my eyes. I began to think about what Edith had said. What kind of sacrifice had I made? Was it during the war? Actually, as I began to think harder, I realized that there were, in fact, six months of the war that I couldn’t remember. One day, I was fighting on the battlefield, and the next, I awakened to find that it was over and we had won. What could my sister be referring to? Was it something that happened during those six months that I could not recall? What was this sacrifice I had made that would not surface my mind?
Edith and I left the city and were able to breathe easier. We returned to the workshop and I eagerly continued the final preparations. While I was working, Edith began to play her violin. The engineer listened while he worked, but still felt nothing. He even tried closing his eyes, but his mind perceived nothing more than vibrations.
“Edith, I’m going to the basement to check on the Chronostat.” I said, taking my blueprints and walking down the stairs.
I gazed upon the airship with pride. I entered the gondola and checked the furnaces. I stocked them with fresh coal. Next, I entered the helm of the gondola and carefully surveyed the time machine. The machine’s termination was controlled by four wheels each circling around the smaller. The smallest wheel was turned to control the time of day, the wheel around it controlled the day itself, the next controlled the month, and the largest, the year. Once the time machine was activated, the wheels would return to their original positions and the rift would immediately be terminated. It was almost like a giant wind-up toy.
As I checked the machine’s condition, I was surprised to see Edith run down the stairs. She looked quite uneasy. I stumbled out of the Chronostat to meet her.
“Conrad! Someone’s at the door!” She yelled urgently.
I arose and clutched my revolver.
“Board the ship,” I said sternly. “I’ll be there in a moment.”
She nodded and ran off toward the airship. Bracing my revolver at my side, I walked up the stairs and approached the door. When I opened it, three men stood before me. One of them was the man I had met at the concert. I did not recognize these men but I immediately knew that they were Frenchmen.
“May we enter, Monsieur Hartwin?” The man from the concert asked.
The two other men laughed, most likely at my frustrated expression.
“Of course.” I said nonchalantly, acting as if they were any other customers.
The man from the concert sat down at the table while the two younger men stood behind him, gripping their muskets. I sat across from them.
“You will keep that journal M. Hartwin and give it to me along with any other technology you acquire; otherwise, we will shoot your vessel out of the sky upon your return. My men have a cannon positioned outside.” The old man said pleasantly.
“You will get nothing from me save a bullet or a blade between head and shoulders!” I yelled and flipped the table onto the three men.
As they threw the table aside, I released two of my six rounds. The two soldiers fell.
“Order your men to move that cannon away from my workshop!” I said sternly, my revolver fixed upon the old man.
The Frenchman laughed and charged at me, drawing forth his sword. I shot my third round, but it passed over the man’s shoulder. I quickly unsheathed my own sword to intercept the old man whose sword arm was that of someone half his age. Being backed into a corner, I grabbed a small phial of azotic acid. I threw the phial at the man, and the resulting explosion sent both of us flying into opposite ends of the workshop. Dazed by the explosion, I fumbled down into the basement and got aboard the Chronostat. Edith was waiting for me with her violin laid across her lap.
I pulled the lever that released the valve for the basement’s massive steam engines. The ground above us was pulled outward and the Chronostat took off after I cautiously lit each furnace.
“We have to hurry and activate the machine before they blast us out of the sky!” I yelled as I violently turned the outer wheel.
I heard the faint sound of the cannon fire below and threw the safety switch, sending the electrons into the time machine and accessing that dimension of infinite mass. The loop of matter shot out before us and we whipped around it with such force that I feared our inertia would tear us apart. Fortunately, the intense centrifugal force set in so quickly that we couldn’t even feel any change in our velocity. It was as if we hadn’t moved at all.
The transfer was very brief, as I had expected. When it was over, I released a shout of joy and pride at having successfully traversed the fourth dimension. Edith and I ran to the observation window of the gondola. The sky was black around us and we could not see anything.
“You did it, brother!” Edith clasped her hands together. “What year is it?”
“Ah! The Chronostat merely traveled . . .” I cannot imagine the horrifying and twisted expression that fell upon my face when I checked the time clock that displayed the date.
“What’s wrong, Conrad?” She asked nervously, placing a hand on my shoulder.
I removed my hat and murmured solemnly, “I meant to only travel a hundred years, but in my desperation to escape the cannon’s volley, we traveled a hundred, hundred years―ten thousand years into the future.”
Edith made no response but stared at me in shock. The time machine suddenly began to emit a low hum.
“Something is amiss. We are losing altitude!” I yelled as I ran to the helm. “A thousand curses upon those Frenchmen! Their cannon struck us! The balloon was punctured!”
Edith gasped and stared at me, her eyes filled with despair. The Chronostat rapidly approached the surface as I vainly stoked the furnaces. Seeing that my efforts were for naught, I ran to my sister and dove to the floor with her beneath me. I could feel every tremor within her body as we braced for impact. Her fear is still imprinted upon my mind today. Oh, how short her breaths came and how tightly her hands, drenched with a cold sweat, gripped mine! Of course, the engineer saw these only as her body’s reaction to the stimulus of an impending danger. The Chronostat struck a surface that felt too hard to be earth. The windows shattered and the lights powered by the furnaces’ excess steam were extinguished. The compartment was pitch black, but I could feel my sister’s rapid heartbeat beneath me and was relieved; we were both alive. I began to rise but soon found that my legs would not respond. I managed to throw myself off of Edith, but she, too, was paralyzed. Soon, all of my strength faded and I fell into unconsciousness.