Suppose you live in a universe where faster than light travel is theoretically possible but there is a barrier which you don't have the technical capability to pierce. Theory says you can travel much faster and you have other technology that surpasses the speed of light, but that vital break through in starships hasn't yet taken place. And that limit is the speed of light itself.
You can reach 99.9% of the speed of light, so you can travel at almost light speed but not beyond. Because it takes so long to reach another star you build large ships. The size means it takes about four months to reach your top speed and another four months to decelerate.
So you can travel a little below the speed of light but because you have to accelerate and decelerate, one light year takes two years. Because of the time dilation effect which reaches almost zero at full speed, the time that passes for the crews and passengers of these ships is only about eight months.
As mentioned you have technology that surpasses the speed of light, one is faster than light communication, so the ships sent out are always in full contact with the mother world. And the second, oh that's matter transmission. But that doesn't seem to help. It basically can only send materials back and forth and living matter is almost 99% destroyed.
So, these ships are simply enormous. While basically scout ships, they are designed for a crew of several thousand. The passengers they carry are in the millions, stacked one above the other in stasis, only to be awakened on a habitable world. There's no real population pressure any more. While the Solar System population is over ten billion, less than four billion still live on Terra; most of them are spread throughout the system.
Many experiments have been done in the one thousand years since star travel began, to transmit living matter and many volunteers had come forward despite the probability of certain death. And many more had stowed aboard containers being sent to new worlds and in the ships searching for them. It wasn't hard; in fact, the authorities made it downright easy. They were always hopeful that someday, a stowaway would actually make it through alive.
Terrorists were another matter. They thought because there were so many stowaways reported dying at the other end of a matter transmitter that they could get bombs and chemical weapons through.
They weren't aware that the government was almost helping the stowaways to succeed and in reality, that Security was very, very good. Oh the terrorists went through all right, but they didn't get to take their weapons with them, they were relieved of those before they were allowed to throw their lives away. In this case for the cause of Mother Terra rather than the causes they really believed in. But the Security people were really kind to the terrorists. They fabricated complete duplicates of the weapons the terrorist’s were trying to get through so they wouldn't be anxious because they no longer had them. Only of course, they didn't go bang or spew out nasty chemicals.
Naked, Timothy Williams got off of the Med bed where his Uncle had placed him to heal the scars and whip marks from his latest beating of the boy and got into his clothes. His arm, which his Uncle had broken, was still a little tender, the Med bed was old and didn't do as good a job on broken bones, as it should, Timothy had found.
His Uncle was lying on a sofa zonked out of his mind on fryweed and Tim was tempted. He even picked up a chair, but he couldn't do it. Not that killing his Uncle would have bothered him, any emotion for his Uncle except hate, had long since been beaten out of him by the man. But he was too squeamish. He dropped the chair and gave it a kick in disgust. Besides, he had a better idea and he thought it would be delicious irony.
Timothy wasn't stupid enough to leave empty-handed. He took one of his Uncle's credit stick with him, since he would need that to carry out his plan and his backpack and a lock of his Uncle's hair.
The backpack was empty, but it was the only thing, that was actually his, from his former life, even the clothes on his back had been provided by his uncle and he didn't intend to leave it for the man to find. He really should have filled the backpack with some extra clothes but he was a little preoccupied and besides he intended to fill it with illicit treats. Well, illicit in his Uncle's eyes.
Timothy took the grav lift to the ground, walked jauntily out into the fresh air. He wasn't worried about pervs or thieves. The only thing valuable he was carrying was his Uncle's credit stick. He'd only be able to use it until his Uncle woke up in the morning anyway and reported it missing. Or until his plan went into motion.
And the pervs would probably be nicer than his Uncle, so Tim certainly wasn't worried about them. At the corner was a snack kiosk, at this time of night it was empty. Tim slipped the credit stick into its slot and began picking this and that. (As you know credit sticks are based on the DNA of the owner, but as a relative Tim's DNA was close enough to his Uncle's that by using his Uncle's lock of hair he was able to fool the machine.)
He filled his backpack half-full with chocolate bars and other confectionery of all descriptions. Not the fake stuff, but the real thing. Reluctantly he even chose a couple of things that were good for him.
Since everything was the real thing, it was expensive and though this was his Uncle's smallest credit stick, it still had over a million creds on it, so it didn't even make a dent in the total figure. Tim just had to find a phone booth and he intended to change that. They weren't as common as snack kiosks but he found one two blocks away. Slipping the credit stick in the slot he fooled it just the same way he'd done at the snack kiosk and then he keyed in the number that Tommy Gordoni had made him memorize. He hadn't asked how Tommy had gotten it, that was his business. He just hoped that Tommy had it right.
A normal phone number had twelve digits but this one had thirty and just by keying it in, it was being scrambled, broken up, transferred and then finally recombined at its final destination. The main screen went on, though only showing a shadow in the shape of a man's head and shoulders.
Clearly and distinctly Tim said, “Caesar and Brutus.”
The voice that spoke was obviously being filtered electronically. “You seem a little young to want to have someone offed. What happened, did someone steal your little girl or boyfriend.”
Tim had a look of distaste on his face, not at what he was about to do, or at the man on the other side of the screen, but at the thought of his Uncle. “I want you to kill my Uncle. I had a chance tonight but I found I was too squeamish.” he confessed reluctantly.
“How much do you intend to pay for that little chore? Ten or twenty creds?” asked the voice sardonically.
Tim told him, “Well, this is the smallest of my Uncle's credit sticks but it has, let's see.” using the phone's built in banking machine, “One million two hundred and thirty-five thousand creds on it.”
The figure on the screen straightened and the next words were no longer either sardonic or disrespectful. “How much of that figure do you wish to use to dispose of your unwelcome Uncle.”
Tim explained with a coldness in his treble voice, “Well, he's a rich and respected man, so I figure a mil would be a fair price. “
A now very respectful voice asked, “Who do you want offed?”
“As I said, my Uncle. His name is Johan Fredrickson.” Tim said.
The man asked, “Ah, a very well known man, quite the philanthropist so I hear. You don't have to answer but may I ask why you want him offed?”
Tim's voice was tight, as he said bitterly, “In the last two months, he's broken my arm three times, the last time earlier today. My leg twice and crushed several of my ribs. He was worried that time, one of my ribs punctured my lung, but the Med bed that he owned though old is very effective. I can't count the number of times he's hit me with a whip. “
“And how in this day and age, does he get away with such brutality?” the man asked incredulously.”
“As you said he's 'quite the philanthropist' and a very wealthy man. Especially in this day and age wealth can buy almost anything.” Tim smiled cynically, saying, “Besides unlike most wealthy men he has no human servants, so there's no witnesses and the bed fixes me as good as new so there's never anything to find.”
Tim knew as well as the man did that a proper medical exam could detect the multiple uses of a Med bed. Tim cleared his throat, saying, “My friend also said that for a fee you can transfer creds into a completely untraceable account. I would like you to do that for what remains of the creds in this particular account.”
“By the way, if you act right now, he's in his apartment zonked out on fryweed. I can give you the codes you need to get in.” Tim explained coldly, “My friend tells me that you change your number on a regular basis, well in this case you had better change it right away. I intend to run but I'm not going to hide. When they find me, I intend to tell the truth. That's why I want the remaining sum on the stick transferred. I know my Uncle doesn't have a will. He thinks he's too special ever to die. Since I'm hiring his death I won't be eligible to inherit so I don't know who it'll go to and I don't know how severely they'll treat me. But in any case I'll need the money when I'm released.”
The Hovertruck Transport stop had several heavy lift hovertrucks in the parking lot. Tim walked boldly around looking for a way to get into one. There were always strays and runaway kids around at any time, day or night and nobody paid him any attention.
All of hovertruck comtainers were locked up tight except for one, which was surprisingly easy to get into. It was parked in a corner where there was a light out. Tim couldn't read the writing on the side of the container. It said, in much smaller lettering than normal, ISMT.
They were letters that he would have recognized at once and stood for Interstellar Matter Transport. In other words, this container was bound for one of the colony planets or one of the explorer ships.
Tim got comfortable, opened his backpack and began to binge on the goodies. A delicate eater, unlike many children when he was full his face was completely clean. His T shirt was a different matter. He had taken if off to use it as a napkin and it was covered in chocolate and sugar.
The hovertruck stayed at the truck stop until the sun began to rise. When it finally took off the trip was short, taking less than half an hour before the hovertruck turned into the main terminal of Insterstellar Matter Transport and the container was loaded onto the Matter Transmitter. Tim didn't even notice, he'd been fast asleep for hours despite the treats that should have had him wired with the extra sugar his body was in the process of absorbing.
Security caught his presence in the first of five pre-transmit scans. “We have a positive from the container on pad three.” the security agent reported to his supervisor, “Hang on. ID coming in. Timothy Williams, ten-years-old. Height four feet tall, weight 60 pounds. Only relative Johan Fredrickson who was murdered sometime during the night. Status: wanted for questioning in the first degree murder of said Uncle.”
The hired guns had carried out their jobs quickly and efficiently. Knowing that Tim planned to confess when he was found, they didn't try to hide how they got in. The fact that they had full codes to a very good security system and that his nephew was missing, indicated that the boy was likely involved.
The Security agent looked at his supervisor, eyebrow raised in question. Normally children detected trying to stowaway were removed. But the supervisor had a very low view of the SYSTEM and figured that a quick death would be better than getting ground up in that SYSTEM.
He had very broad latitude in his decisions. He reached over his man's shoulder and putting his hand into the DNA scanner, a much more sophisticated instrument than the ones Tim had managed to fool the night before. Once he was identified, he said coldly, “The stowaway has been identified as a possible criminal. Notwithstanding his age, his presence is to be logged and reported to the destination but ignored by all subsequent scans.” and he started the changes to his world.
Jack Flint, of the Terran Starship Lincoln, looked with distaste at the container that had just arrived. He knew that there was a stowaway aboard. He had dealt with dozens of them by now, but you never got used to cleaning up the mess a matter transmission did to a living human body.
Jack opened the access hatch and he found a mess all right and he looked with astonishment at the boy who was still in the process of making it. Tim was on his knees still retching his guts out. Finally he seemed to be empty and Tim looked up as someone grasped him gently by the arm and helped him to his feet and led him out of the container. Jack took a clean handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the boy's face. Tim looked gratefully at the kind young face looking down at him.
Jack pulled his communicator out of his pocket. He hesitated for a moment, then punched in the Captain's code. Captain Paul Cody's face appeared on the communicator's small screen. Taking in the astonished look that he took for horror, “A bad one is it, Jack?” he asked. Surprise had robbed Jack of his normally articulate tongue; he just turned the communicator so the pick up showed Tim's face.
“Who, the hell is that, Jack?” roared out of the communicator's speaker.
Finally, Jack was able to speak but his voice came out almost in a whisper. It was a good thing the communicator had such a good microphone. “That's… That's.” Jack gave himself a light slap on the head, “That's our stowaway, Captain.”
“Jack, what have you been drinking?” Cody's voice continued to roar out of the speaker. Tim looked at him with interest. People who roared didn't frighten him. He had learned that the quiet, menacing type like his Uncle were much more threatening and terrifying.
Since Jack's mind didn't seem to be present at the moment, he answered the Captain. “Hi. My name's Timothy Williams, though I prefer to be called Tim.”
The Captain looked at him with surprise, but he collected himself much more quickly than Jack had done, He said thoughtfully, “We know who you are Tim. We just didn't expect to find you alive.”
“Oh, why not?” asked Tim with bright curiosity.
“Look around you, Tim, have you ever seen anything like it before.” the Captain instructed.
After looking around carefully, he shrugged his shoulders, saying, “Sure, in the Vids, all the time.”
The Captain explained carefully, “Tim, you're not in a Vid. This is the real thing. You're in a matter transmitter bay and you just went through a matter transmitter.”
“Oh,” said Tim very, very quietly, finally understanding why both Jack and the Captain were so surprised. He went a little green and this time it wasn't from the chocolate and going through a matter transmitter. Still in a tiny voice, “I learned in school they'd finally decided that that was impossible.”
The Captain shook his head, saying calmly but with undrerlying jubilance in his voice, “Not any more, Tim, not any more. You've changed all of that. You've just changed the world, now we've got to find out how you did it.”
He addressed the Security guard, telling him, “Jack, if you're still alive down there I want you to get Tim to Sick Bay where the docs can do some complete run-ups on him. I've got to tell Terra about this and Tim, I'm honored to have you on board.”
They were in the final stages of deceleration and time dilation no longer affected them. Everybody who could manage to be in the largest of the ship's auditoriums was there and even those on duty were watching the events that transpired and billions of others spread over this portion of the galaxy and Terra were watching by Vid. The Captain rapped for order and it was as if a switch on an audio device was switched off, so sudden was the silence.
“I have an announcement before we discuss the momentous events that
have occurred in the last few months. And Tim, this is especially for
“From the Supreme Court of Terra, the Case of Terra vs Timothy Williams.
Part One: It is the unanimous opinion of this court, based on the evidence presented to it, that Timothy Williams acted in self-defense in the death of Johan Fredrickson, therefore Timothy Williams is declared 'not guilty' on all charges.
Part Two: However it is also the unanimous opinion of this court, that while Timothy Williams acted in self-defense in this matter, he did in fact engage in the act of hiring the death of his Uncle Johan Fredrickson and may not profit from this death.
Therefore, though he is the closest living relative he will not inherit his estate. Since Johan Fredrickson died with no will, his estate will go to his other relatives, the amounts and proportions to be decided by a lower court.
All of the audience in the auditorium was aware of what had transpired between Tim and his uncle. As he happened to be a nice kid anyway and a general favorite, he was given a rousing cheer as, the Captain handed him the scroll rendering the verdict.
Tim had a wide smile on his face and he clutched the scroll tightly a few tears threatening to fall. He was grateful when the Captain introduced the ship's doctor and his statement told exactly why the Supreme Court of Terra had rendered the verdict.
Doctor Wait peered at the audience as if nearsighted though that particular eye problem had disappeared centuries ago. He looked at his com pad. He said, “When Jack Flint brought Tim in and announced the fact that a live stowaway had finally appeared, you can imagine the chaos that overtook Sick Bay.
Wait explained, “When we finally recovered our equilibrium, we began a series of exhaustive tests, not all of them pleasant, as the tongue that Tim is sticking out at me indicates.” A general laugh at that because he was completely accurate. When he looked over at the boy and smiled, Tim had his hand over his mouth and then taking his hand down he shrugged and giggled.
The doctor continued, “All of our tests indicated that Tim was almost completely normal, though of somewhat more than average intelligence. But two anomalies came to our attention. First, Tim's DNA was different from the rest of humanity. Slightly under 1%, I won't give you the exact percentage. It's of scientific interest only.”
Wait stated flatly, “Tim has been under the care of his Uncle for two years but the last public DNA scan we have, shows absolutely no differences from normal DNA. The second anomaly was the fact that he had radiation levels associated with the type used in Med beds and other healing devices, several times the normal dosage.”
He said sternly, “We reported this information to Terra and they examined the Med bed that had been purchased by Fredrickson. A private Med bed is unusual. Despite the fact that Fredrickson was regarded as a philanthropist and all around nice guy, the company that refurbished the bed asked the Justice Department if they could place a backup memory system in the bed. The Justice Department, not liking Med beds to be in the hands of anyone except doctors, acquiesced.”
Wait said coldly, “The official memory indicated that the bed was only used on the odd occasion. Indicating that Tim was prone to the usual scrapes and bruises of a normal small boy.” He looked at Tim who was sitting straight as a rod in his chair his face devoid of all emotion. “Sorry, Tim, but this is important.”
Turning back to his audience, he said, “The backup memory placed by the Med company that supplied the bed painted a very different story. In fact during the two years that Tim lived with his Uncle the Med bed was used more than 500 hundred times. Most of them were for bad bruises, some of them the type of bruises left by hands or feet, impacting a fragile body,” a brief pause, “and the weals left by whips of various types. But there were dozens of broken bones; a couple of them were life threatening. One was a fractured skull and a second crushed several ribs and a punctured lung resulted.”
The Captain's wife, who was also the First Officer, had Tim in her lap now and he was crying silently on her shoulder. The Doctor continued, saying, “That's the reason that the Supreme Court acquitted Tim and declared that he had acted in self-defense. Fredrickson had no human servants. Fredrickson inflicted all of the damage done to Tim.
Doctor Wait shook his head, saying, “During the day, of the night Tim ran away, Fredrickson was busy. He used a whip and broke Tim's arm so the bed was in use. In fact, when Tim got off the bed Fredrickson was spaced out on fryweed, something Tim knew would happen, that's how the beatings always ended. Tim admitted that he planned to kill his Uncle right then, but he was squeamish. Personally,” and his face was savage, “that wouldn't have stopped me.” and he got growls of agreement from the audience.
He calmed down, saying, “Tim figured out a way to beat the DNA system used to check on credit sticks. We won't say how and that problem is being worked on right now. He's a little kid and combined with the savage nature of his Uncle he was forbidden to have treats. So the first thing he did was go to our equivalent of a candy store and stock up. No fakes for him, he brought the best real chocolate and other candy that money could buy.” He said with a grin of amusement and a ripple of laughter went through the audience.
The Doctor’s face sobered as he said, “And then he went and made a phone call. We don't know where he got the number and Tim refuses to tell us, but he got in touch with a murder-for-hire agency and hired them to remove his Uncle. Since he told them he intended to tell the truth when he was found, they didn't try to make a secret of the fact that they knew the security codes of Fredrickson's apartment. Since Tim was missing the authorities put two and two together, assumed he had provided them. As indeed he had.”
Tim was over his crying fit and sitting up and listening. He wasn't ashamed of what he had done. There was a little regret that he had caused a life to be taken, but it was nothing to the relief of being free of his Uncle.
The doctor shook his head in wonder as he said, “Now a lucky break for humanity occurred. Fredrickson's business manager called with important news. He got worried when he couldn't contact him. He couldn't get into the apartment but he could activate the security backup system.”
He explained, “The computer of the backup system discovered the dead body and summoned the police. They found that Tim had gone down the grav lift sometime before his Uncle had been killed. Putting that together with the fact that there had been no break in, that the killers knew the security codes and that Tim was gone, they assumed, rightly, that Tim had given out the codes.”
He paused for a second and took a drink from the glass on the podium and then continued, “There was a hovertruck stop not far from where Tim lived and he went there to stow away in a container. He figured he'd get halfway across the country before the authorities found him. In fact, that's the first place that the police went. The one container he was able to get into was an Interstellar Matter Transport, the only one that was scanproof to ordinary instruments, though the police weren't aware of that fact. I've been given permission by the government to release the following information:”
Doctor Wait explained, “The Security forces have known about every stowaway attempt ever tried. The government considered that if someone wanted to stowaway on a container, that so far had been 100% fatal, they already had a death wish and should be allowed to fulfil it. Since there are, several scans and Security is able to ID anyone who tries, normally those of unsound mind or children would be removed from the containers.”
He stated flatly, “In this case, when the ID came up and identified Tim as a suspect in a murder, the supervisor, who has full discretion in cases like this and had been through what he calls the SYSTEM when he was a child, felt that a quick death was better. He allowed Tim to remain on the container, only having it logged and the fact that there was a stowaway on board transmitted to its arrival destination. Which of course was us. He started to change our world and Tim's trip here completed the change.”
He told the audience, “Now, since we had all this information gathered by the time Tim had been here for two weeks – six weeks ago, we've been experimenting on ways to duplicate Tim's feat. We've found a way to simulate the change brought about in Tim's DNA by the radiation emitted by the Med bed. And we sent animals through and they arrived mainly intact but dead.”
The Doctor grinned saying, “But someone got the idea of looking back at Tim's account and he found the key. Tim went on a chocolate and candy binge just hours before he was sent though the transmitter. So we began injecting the animals with sugar and sugar substitutes and they began to arrive alive with only minor damage.”
He said with satisfaction, “They came up with a combination that seems to do the trick and they've been sending larger and larger animals through for the last three weeks. Last week they started sending human volunteers through and aside from minor medical problems it was a success from the very beginning and they were quickly able to iron out the minor problems.”
He explained, “After that they were able to send anyone through with no problems. In the last four days, they've sent through more than a thousand men and women. They've become so confident that they sent two to us here. Ladies and Gentlemen of the TSS Lincoln and all of the other planets and starships out there and to Terra and our home system, I present to you, President Roger Thompson and First Lady Andrea Thompson.”
As the most powerful Statesman of his time and his First Lady appeared on the stage, the cheers which rocked the house, began on the TSS Lincoln, spread across several hundred light years of space and over one hundred billion people.