Ed is now explaining to the world what an energy virus is. This is not a step he is taking lightly. We turned it over for a long while before deciding there really wasn't any choice. Even so, he is describing it in the vaguest possible terms, at the same time underlining the fact that to attempt to engineer an energy virus of our own would be to flirt with sudden and complete human extinction. We hope the world will get the message, though I suppose we'll never know if they don't...
"As near as we can tell, the energy virus was triggered some time during the day of June 25, 2002. The 'explosion' if it can so be called instantly wiped out the entire Eridanian race and destroyed the star Epsilon Eridani shortly afterwards. This is why the Eridanian attacks stopped. Assuming the vacuum decay zone continues to expand at light speed, the wavefront will reach and swallow up the Sun and the Earth on December 22, 2012. That gives us just under ten years in which to come up with a plan and carry it out."
Ed is speaking rhetorically. He already knows what we're going to do about it; I came up with the idea a few weeks ago. He humours a large number of people by letting them voice their ideas. No, there's no physical way to defend ourselves from the virus: even setting off an energy virus of our own would merely destroy our solar system a few years earlier. We can't run from it, the energy virus is going to swallow up the entire universe in time, it's as simple as that. More ideas are thrown around. People propose setting up organizations, think tanks, investigation programmes. Some people suggest there's no way we can save ourselves and we should live out our lives to the fullest, a suggestion I'm sure everybody in the hall has already contemplated momentarily. The debates get pretty heated. Several people are getting quite emotional.
It's several minutes later when somebody hesitantly raises his hand and says, "Earlier this week you mentioned that practical time travel seemed to be, uh, well, if not practical, at least possible. To some extent. Now, perhaps I'm misinterpreting these findings, I don't know, but couldn't we, um, go back in time, and go to Epsilon Eridani and prevent the energy virus ever being created?"
"Yes," says Ed. "Yes, we could." He spots a familiar individual preparing to protest and singles him out. "Doctor Qvenild?"
It's the bearded Norwegian, the head scientist from the Kerrig Facility. Qvenild is a nice guy, very smart, and though Ed and I only met him briefly I'm told Ed still trades information with him online now and then. Ed's spoken to him a lot more in the last few days, since he flew in for the conference. "The problem with that idea is that we can't just send one person backwards in time. All that would happen for us is that the individual sent back in time would disappear from our universe forever. He'd arrive in a totally different universe, split off from ours at his re-entry time. If you really wanted to save humanity like that, then I suppose one would have to gather every human being in the world together and send them all back in time at once."
"Quite right," says Ed. "And even disregarding the unimaginable logistical and political problems of gathering the entire population of the Earth into one place, one also has to consider that the place we arrived would be an Earth already fully populated. We'd instantly double the population of that Earth, with disastrous consequences. Taking every human being back in time at once is completely impractical. Next slide please?"
A murmur begins to circulate as everybody takes in what the next slide is an image of.
"We're going to have to take the Earth with us."
The slide shows the planet Earth, encircled with satellites. "My plan is to place about a hundred of these satellites in very low Earth orbit. Obviously the nice geometric arrangement shown here can't be maintained indefinitely, as the satellites must be in motion; the orbits will be calculated to line up like this at regular intervals. The satellites will contain machinery which will enable them to instantaneously project a skew field - sorry, a negative skew temporal field for those of you who weren't at that lecture, a skew field is what takes you backwards in time - over the entire planet Earth. They will also be provided with enough power to transport the entire planet backwards in time to a point before, hopefully substantially before, June 25, 2002.
"With accurate adjustment for relative 4-momentum and other completely bananas stuff like that, it should be a simple matter to calculate our re-entry point to be at the leading or trailing Trojan point of the Earth already present in the universe we arrive in. That will place us in a stable orbit. From there we will not only be able to communicate with the other Earth, whose inhabitants will be astoundingly surprised to see us, but also send an expedition to Epsilon Eridani to find and make contact with their inhabitants, and hopefully make peace, or at least stop them from developing the energy virus. How early we arrive will be a factor here; I hope we can generate enough power to arrive before the Eridanian conflict even begins, but that will depend on how many years it takes us to construct and activate the net of skew satellites, because the number of years we can travel backwards in time will be strictly limited by the power we can supply to those satellites.
"Anyway, that's the plan, and now you know why I called this conference. I need help. I can't do all this on my own. Right now this diagram is all the plan I have. I need every space agency in the world to drop what they're doing and help. I will give you information, and technology, and knock prototypes together, but I'm not organized. I need people who know how to coordinate things, managers, people who are organized. People with power, contacts, resources, brains, and billions of dollars. Yes, a lot of money will be involved here. It's that or complete extinction. There it is. There is our threat, and there is our solution. We have ten years to implement it.
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