Project Retrace

March 6, 2017
By The2ndMechromancer BRONZE, Overland Park, Kansas
The2ndMechromancer BRONZE, Overland Park, Kansas
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

They called me a “child prodigy.” 17 years old and already working for NASA, I was helping them to develop their first ever teleportation device. Something that would not only be able to teleport items, but eventually people. The project started simple: we were able to bend time and space to send an apple from one platform to another using teleportation. However, this was only our first step; we wanted to make it so you could teleport anything to anywhere at any given time. So we marked the platforms as a successful “rough draft,” and immediately got back to work.
A lot of my coworkers found it very odd to be working on this project (which required extreme amounts of knowledge and education) with a 17-year-old. But I did not let this stop me. My understanding of the space-time continuum, of molecular breakdown and reconstruction, and basic physics were nearly unrivaled within the project. In the end, it was me who was able to create the algorithm for sending the object off the platform to any given spot in the world. Due to my work, we were very close to being able to call the project a success, we only needed to find a way to make the sending platform portable, or wearable. So we celebrated the success shortly, and then got back to work.
A few weeks later is when it happened. I was working on some mathematics in my office when one of my coworkers and close friends, named Connor Donnert, came rushing into my office and told me he had made a breakthrough on the project. I followed him quickly to his office, and sitting on his desk was a slim, harness-looking device hanging from a display rack. He explained to me that he had been able to program the teleportation platform’s technology into a small round computer that sat on the front of the harness. He told me, however, that he needed human test subject to test it on, as he had already gotten it to work on inanimate objects, and the last step was to see if it could send a human. He then got very disheartened, explaining to me that due to the danger inherently left in molecular breakdown and reconstruction (in that there is a small chance that the pieces may not be put back together correctly) was too high to risk in NASA’s opinion, and they refused him permission to test it on any subjects.
The Teleportation Project (codename: Project “Retrace”) had been my entire life’s work, so to see it so close to completion excited me very much at the time. So when I heard of Connor’s plight, I immediately offered myself as a test subject for his project. We agreed to meet at his house later that evening, as we couldn’t perform the experiment on NASA property. So we both finished our work for the evening and returned to our homes until the time came for us to meet up. I had dinner with my girlfriend (whom I did live alone with; I may have been 17, but believe me the money I was making was more than enough to support our independent life in a house together), and explained to her my excitement of how the project I had told her about so many times was nearly done. She congratulated me, and said that after the experiment we would celebrate together at our favorite restaurant the next day. I kissed her goodbye after dinner and started heading to Connor’s house.
I arrived at Connor’s house at 7:15 P.M. on October 15th, 2047. He invited me in and we went to his basement to conduct the experiment. I slipped on the harness-like device and got into position. We agreed to only send me to the other end of the room. He plugged the coordinates into the harness and handed me the activator. He asked me one last time if I was sure I wanted to do what we were about to do. I slipped the goggles over my eyes and said the most stereotypical thing I possibly could have, “I was born ready.” Connor laughed and went over to the other side of the room. He told me I could go whenever I was ready. I looked down at my watch one more time. 7:25 P.M. I took one last deep breath, and pressed the button.
The experience was absolutely mind blowing: it felt as though I were riding a roller coaster, my surroundings looking like the middle of outer space, pure darkness. As I rushed through time and space, I could feel the pull of the physical world recalling me. The device made a loud buzzing sound, and I was back in Connor’s basement. I looked down at my watch; 7:25 P.M. The teleport appeared to be a huge success.
I screamed in excitement “It worked Connor! We did it! We actually did it!”
But as I turned around to greet and congratulate my colleague, I realized all the differences in the basement. It was more cluttered, dirty, and dusty than before I left, looking more like a storage area than a research lab. I was very confused, as I had only been gone maybe a few seconds. I headed upstairs, and saw Connor, sitting at his table eating dinner.
I called out to him “Connor, what is going on? Why is your basement a mess, and why were you not down there to meet me? I was only gone a few seconds!”
And when Connor turned around, he looked as pale as a ghost.
He stood up and questioned me, “Trevor?”
I responded to him and said “Who else? We were just together less than a minute ago!”
It was then that I realized how much older Connor looked. His hair was graying, he had the start of crow’s feet at his eyes, and his skin was clearly starting to wrinkle. He looked at me, tears in his eyes, and said to me “I am sorry Trevor. We never should have tested the device. It malfunctioned. Something in the system went wrong. You were gone for exactly ten years.”
His words hit me like a truck. I stumbled backwards, in a complete daze, and thought about how this could have happened. Connor and I came to the conclusion that due to the malfunction in the system, my passing through the physical world by means of time-space continuum was slowed down in the physical realm while still feeling like a normal amount of time was passing in the continuum, as time is relative. So while the world was 10 years older, I aged none while my molecules were being sent through the continuum. Basically, I accidently time-traveled rather than distance-traveled. However, we soon realized that this was not the only problem. Both of us still basically in shock, Connor offered to get me a glass of water. But when he tried to hand me the glass, it passed right through my hand and shattered on the floor. We stared at each other, fear in our eyes, and he reached out to touch me. His hand passed right through my body. It was at this time that I started to panic. And then it happened: I was back in the darkness, only this time I wasn’t feeling the sensation of moving at all. I was there for what felt like a minute, and when I came back I was right where I was when I left: outside Connor’s kitchen, looking at his dining table.
Once again, however, things were different. There was no food at Connor’s table, and all the lights were off. I looked at his microwave clock and the time said 10:36 A.M. The next day. I started to panic even harder, having no understanding of what was happening to me. I ripped the harness of my body, clearly being able to at least touch that which had been on me at the time of teleportation. So at this time I realized I could touch two things: myself and the things attached to me, and the floor. I realized I needed to get back to NASA, see if they could help me with what was happening. And then, it happened again. I was in the blackness, the sensation of movement overtaking me again, unlike last time. And when I reappeared, I realized I was at the NASA HQ, with many dumbfounded scientists looking right at me. I heard my friend Connor scream “My goodness, there he is now!” I then realized that I could control my own teleports, where I was in the world, but only sometimes. Some teleports would happen without my will, and absolutely zero times could the timing be controlled.
So, the scientists at NASA, having had my plight explained to them by Connor, immediately got to work. They came to the conclusion that what had happened was that the malfunction in the device caused my molecules to be trapped between the physical realm and the space-time continuum, meaning I was here but not here, alive but not living. Being not fully bound to physical reality meant that I could not age, and the physical world could not affect me, besides the ground, as gravity exists in the space-time continuum, so basically there is a “ground” there. The molecules stuck in limbo got affected by that ground and thus kept me from passing through the physical ground. The scientists explained this all to me as they could, with all my phasing in and out of reality, all the while (for me) feeling like time was passing normally.
And then, they found the solution. After around a year, which only felt like a few days for me due to my non-connection to time, Connor created a device he believed would work as an “anchor” for me to live in the present, pulling my molecules stuck in limbo into the physical realm. It looked much like the harness that had originally done this to me. He powered it on the next time I was “near” him, and, thank the heavens, it actually worked! I materialized fully before him, and he immediately hugged me, overjoyed to have me back. The device has a battery charge, and is most effective when worn for one reason: when worn, I can use it to control my own time. This means I can teleport while remaining in the present, having no time pass while I do it. I can teleport wherever I wish just with thought with the device on, and with the device not on me I remain anchored to the present but I cannot teleport. This event was nearly six years ago. I live a happy life again, now as a soldier, for my special abilities make me a great asset for my country and for the greater good on the battlefield. I found my girlfriend again, but we decided the new age gap between us meant we could not be together. I live alone, as I do age much slower than others, but I am still very happy.

The author's comments:

This piece is a science fiction piece inspired by the story of Tracer from Overwatch.

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