Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
 
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Field Disruption

by Dave Weaver



The strange shaped craft swung down out of the clouds, a drop of pure silver reflecting the early morning sunlight off its perfectly spherical fuselage. It slowed to a halt and hovered uncertainly over the vast forest as if just holding itself still required a sublime act of willpower.

On board the Tunguska Probe its inhabitants made their way over to stand before the large bank of one-way glass wrapped around the front of its hull.

"And you're sure no one can see us, Mitchelson?" a middle-aged white-haired man shouted up to the ship's pilot who was making his way from the bridge to join the little group. They all wore white jumpsuits bearing a big 'Project TP' logo. "We can't afford any cultural contamination."

"Like who? Some old woodcutter and his wife? The answer is 'no', just as it was when we planned all this and you agreed the ship's design. I've spent your money well, Mr Gregorov."

"And we're quite safe?"

"As I told you yet again at the final briefing, we're suspended in a ten millisecond out-of-sync stasis to the current timezone."

"Meaning?"

The young man shook his head and grinned. "Meaning, the Event can't touch us."

The white-haired man seemed to relax. He turned to the others standing by his side as they all stared out intently across the carpet of never ending pines a few hundred feet below.

"Well, this is it, ladies and gentlemen. The Tunguska Forest, northern Siberia, Thursday 26th of September 1911. The time, 10:34 AM. In precisely three minutes the largest explosion since man existed on this planet will take place directly below our feet and we shall be present to witness it."

He studied each of the men and women in turn. "I know you all have your separate theories; a meteorite breaking up above ground zero, a blast from a volcanic vent, a cloud of anti-matter making contact with Earth," he smiled good humouredly, "even an alien spaceship crashing. But as a layman myself I have no theories, only a hunger for the truth. That's why it wasn't strictly paternalism on my part to invite you all along. What better, more believable witnesses to have?"

The others nodded to him and gripped the handrail. Gregorov could see they were nervous but he himself felt a calmness that came from the realisation of a lifetime's obsession. His great great grandfather had been one of the few locals to survive the blast. When the rescuers had finally dug the boy out of the snow, wide-eyed and babbling about the great light in the sky, it had set in train a mystery handed down through his family's generations.

Now that he was one of the richest men in Russia, Ivan Gregorov could finally end that mystery.

"Are we ready, everyone?" No one replied.

There was a slight vibration in the floor. It came again. The young pilot next to him gave a small frown and tilt of the head.

"What's wrong, Mitchelson, what is it?"

"I don't know. I need to check something out." He walked hurriedly back towards the bridge.

"There's no time left, it's coming now!" Gregorov's voice followed him, but Mitchelson was already punching numbers onto a bank of screens around his console. The craft shook again and this time it kept on shaking, a rapid juddering motion as the engines started a high-pitched whine.

"There's a disruption in the field, something's destabilising us, I don't understand..."

Then a whooshing noise and a really, really big bang. But of course, they never heard that.

####

"Sir, I'm feeling a bit sick."

The adolescent voice broke into Andre's reverie. He tore his eyes away from the viewing portal. "Did you take your capsule like everyone else?"

"Er, I think I might have dropped it, sir."

Andre sighed. Why were children so stupid? "Ask the flight attendant for another, tell him I sent you."

"Are we there yet, sir?"

He turned to the class of schoolchildren milling around him on the observation deck like spasmodic flies.

"Almost ready Peterson. Why, are you bored?"

"No sir, but I'm in the school Gameplayer finals tomorrow. Got to practice tonight."

"This is one of the major events of human history, Peterson. You don't have to blow anything away here, it's all done for you. You'll love it." If I don't murder you first, Andre thought.

He hated kids. But History Coach was one of the few jobs that would let him see the Event for free. Every Year got a school trip to see the volcanic eruption at Krakatoa, Hiroshima's atomic bomb and the Tunguska Event. It was only the latter that interested Andre, however. It was like a compulsion, as if something in the very core of his being was forcing him back there literally time and again.

Well, not 'something'. He knew why he had to be there.

"So, what happened again, sir?" The young girl looked up at him expectantly and Andre realised it was time to get on with the job he was paid to do.

"Right, settle down everyone. Listen up and turn on your notetakers. This'll be your essay for next week."

When he'd finished a few hands shot up from the class swots while the rest stared eagerly out of the portals. They'd had enough of facts and figures; they wanted action.

"So nothing really happened at all, Sir. I mean nothing natural anyway."

"Correct."

"And it was us that really did it."

"Well, the first official observation craft anyway." Andre told him again, patiently. "It compromised the Tunguska Probe's magnetic field, disrupted it. You know what that means from your science class. They copied the Probe's exact timeline co-ordinates but no two objects can ever exist together in the same space-time continuum."

The boy looked at Andre, amazed. "What a stupid mistake!"

"It was hundreds of years ago Mathews, and we all make mistakes. Even you."

The announcement drowned out any more questions.

"Are we ready everyone?" Andre asked as they stared down at the carpet of trees spread out below them. Something round and silvery glinted for a few moments in the bright Autumn sunshine and Andre Gregorov prepared his ears for the bang.

As usual, it still took him by surprise.

THE END


© 2011 Dave Weaver

Bio: Dave Weaver is a graphic designer living in St Albans. He is a member of the Verulam Writer's Circle. Dave's 'Finding Uncle' short story was published in Hert's University's 'Visions' anthology. His most recent Aphelion appearance was The Friendly Planet, May 2011.

E-mail: Dave Weaver

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