Computer specialist Joe Rebman joins a team to investigate what might be man’s first contact with extraterrestrials. The alien nature of the craft, discovered at a remote location in the Arizona desert, raises concern for national security. This prompts the Pentagon to add Colonel Warren Anderson to the team. A group of college students on a field trip is discovered near the landing site. But they are not really students. They are time travelers from five-hundred years in the future with a mission to instigate the development of a worldwide genealogical database. 26th century doctors will use the data to track down and cure people with genetic mutations, saving millions from certain death.
Is this an advance party of an alien invasion or time travelers on a lifesaving mission? Joe and the Colonel battle about which scenario is true. Joe believes he must help the ‘students’ save future humankind from genealogical doom. Colonel Anderson doesn’t buy the story and wants to focus on the present. Who is right?
THE YESTERDAY TREE asks fundamental questions about how we might respond to extra-terrestrial contact and confronts the possibility of time travel
Targeted Age Group:: adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Two things inspired me to write this book. First, my love of science fiction. Second, my long time interest in maintaining my family tree.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
A few of my characters for this book are based on people I knew about 45 years ago. I have, of course, made every effort to disguise these people so they could not be identified by anyone, including themselves. The remaining characters are pure fabrications.
“In the twenty-sixth century, mysterious deaths are taking a substantial segment of the population. Not immediately, not even in the current generation, but at a critically increasing rate. Medical research reveals that everyone who succumbs to the fatal illness possesses at least one of five metamorphosed DNA gene pairs. These defects have lain dormant for five centuries. The mutations are taking lives at an exponential rate, and there is no cure in sight.” From chapter 38, History of Man, general release 2547
In the twenty-first century, resources were becoming exhausted more rapidly than they could be replaced from sources on Earth or from locations reachable via conventional spacecraft. In addition, man’s pollution and its compounding effects were slowly killing all life on the planet. The discovery of a drive system enabling humankind to travel between the stars remained hidden from Earth’s population for almost a generation. Not because anyone considered it unsafe, but merely the perception of a political necessity. The fear, as irrational as it now sounds to 26th century man, was that too many people would leave the home world of humanity, making life there unsustainable.
Five hundred years after the discovery of faster-than-light technology, humanity managed to populate twenty-three planets. There were horrible failures in the beginning. Planets perceived as inhabitable turned out to be so inhospitable that the first settlers died soon after landing. For other colonization ships, failed navigation systems condemned them to drive on into the greater void between galaxies. Years of research and evolving technology at last allowed travelers from Earth to reach safe destinations with little or no complication or fatalities. Generation after generation saw basic agrarian societies, on these new worlds, evolve into technological civilizations that far surpassed the most optimistic predictions of their earthbound ancestors. Subsequently, the deaths began.
What physicians diagnosed as a flu epidemic on one world was mistakenly traced to a virus native to another planet. Scientists attributed widespread deaths on a second planet to improperly fabricated plant fertilizers originally brought from Earth. On yet another world, widespread illness and deaths were erroneously credited to a harmless bacterial strain unintentionally transported from Earth. The bacteria mutated into something the inhabitants’ immune system could not tolerate. On planet after planet, the death toll rose, with no one realizing that there might be a connection.
A number of mysterious deaths on Omicron 3, the eleventh settlement, brought an off planet medical team to investigate. Weeks of analyses led the doctors to conclude that the illness was not contagious, further confusing their investigation. Laboratory tests indicated the mitochondria of particular cells found in muscle tissue were deteriorating. These mitochondria, responsible for cell respiration, were not in themselves the problem. However, this failure led to complications in the proper function of heart tissue. The cause of the breakdown could not be ascertained, and there was no way to reverse the process once it was discovered. Some members of the medical profession felt a treatment could be perfected if they could diagnose the illness early enough. But it struck in such a random pattern that by the time symptoms developed and were recognized, it was too late to take any curative action.
Scientists at last began comparing notes about the illness attacking their respective populations. Research by a small group of geneticists revealed that the problem was not with the new worlds or with what might have been transported from the home world. It was not carried in the massive colony ships at all but in the people themselves, in their DNA.
Attempting to track the defective strands of DNA back far enough to develop a practical plan to begin identifying carriers in order to slow the deaths became a paramount task. However, little information was available on the genealogy of the twenty-three worlds’ populations. So much time had gone by, with so little interest in maintaining family genealogy records that the researchers found it impossible to build a workable database. Families rarely traced their ancestors back more than six or seven generations. This small sampling was not nearly enough to begin any viable research. Everyone knew that something had to be done, but no one could postulate the proper action to take.
* * *
Periodically, a symposium of the twenty-three worlds’ medical professionals convened to study the problem and advancements in related research. The medical community devised a test for the defective genes, but in the time it would take to organize and test the 276 billion people inhabiting the settled planets, millions would die. The conference became the focal point of many other scientific disciplines that might aid the search for a more timely solution.
A lecture was taking place that seemed, to a senior member of the genetics team, to be boring and unproductive to their search for a solution. The introductory comments covered information about black holes, which had been studied both from afar and at close range for hundreds of years. It was discovered that these massive gravity wells had the unique capacity to bend the fabric of space. Exhaustive studies of these unique fields were made in the hope of utilizing the energy generated from this bending of space to allow spaceships to travel between the galaxies.
The lecturer soon moved on to a recent discovery, white holes, the subject of the current talk. These anomalies in space and their unique properties were far more intriguing. In many ways, these products of dying stars are similar to their counterpart. However, unlike black holes, the gravitational power of white holes, at least theoretically, could be utilized to slingshot matter outward. The current lecture set forth the hypothesis that if black holes could be used to catapult a craft across a great distance, white holes could project a craft across a vast time.
Vast time? The genetics researcher, a man named Karoel Langstand, wondered. Long after the lecture was over, Langstand continued to sit, pondering the possibilities.
A method was needed to identify carriers of the defective genes. Once tracked, the carriers could be treated long before symptoms developed, thus saving millions of lives. What was needed was a massive genealogical database of humankind. A database that did not exist now because it had not been built in the distant past. Was there a way to build that genealogical catalog? Could it be possible to slingshot a group of people to a past Earth that existed prior to the beginning of the settlements on the twenty-three planets? If such a trip could be made, could that group somehow instigate the creation of such a chart? A massive family genealogy to bring together the genetic history of all humankind. A crazy idea, but one that ultimately gave rise to the Yesterday Tree Project – the YTP.
Langstand arranged a meeting with the man who had given the lecture. The astrophysicist sat quietly, listening to the idea. Langstand at last finished explaining his dilemma and the possibility of applying the astrophysicist’s theory to solve his problem. The scientist studied him for several moments before breaking out in a long hearty laugh. The geneticist looked at the man in shock. “Can you not understand the magnitude of the problem? How can you laugh in the face of countless millions dying?”
“Don’t you see this is all only theory?” The astrophysicist asked when he at last managed to stifle his laughter.
“But, you said it might be possible,” Langstand lamented.
“No, I said it might be plausible. A significant difference in semantics. Years of mathematical research will be needed in order to build a computer model before we can begin testing this theory. Even then, the technology does not exist to investigate the notion. I do understand your predicament and must admit it sounds like an interesting application of the theory.”
Langstand left with the gloomy realization that his dream was just that – a dream. There had to be an alternative. As time went by, Langstand rarely mentioned the crazy idea to anyone but his closest confidants. It was at last forgotten, and the search continued for some other means of solving the catastrophic problem growing more serious with every passing week.
One day Langstand received a strange invitation to attend another seminar in astrophysics. It was a field that continued to be alien to him. He wondered if the invitation had been a mistake – a clerical error. Since the symposium was to be held in the main hall of a neighboring city’s university, he decided to attend. He nearly fell asleep during the lecture. It was all far beyond his grasp. Soon after the meeting broke up, a young man approached him. “I have been asked to invite you to Professor Greystrode’s office.”
“Whatever for? I have never met the man.”
“It would seem you did. You may have forgotten, but my boss does not forget anything. And he never makes mistakes,” the young man said with a deep reverence for the professor.
With some trepidation, Langstand followed. He soon found himself in a large office, diminished with two outsized tables covered with several foot high stacks of documents. A large old-fashioned chalkboard, covered with elaborate astronomical diagrams, hung on the wall behind a timeworn wooden desk. On the far side of the room sat three computer terminals. The large screens were covered with what he guessed were astronomical calculations.
An elderly man sat quietly with his nose in what appeared to be an ancient physics text. When his assistant shut the door, the man looked up, offering an expansive smile. “You do not remember our talk, do you?” the seated man asked, seeing the perplexed look on Langstand‘s face.
“I am afraid you are correct. Your field is one I have little interest in and even less understanding.”
“Permit me to refresh your memory. You approached me regarding a lecture I gave about the current theory of black holes and their potential use for spanning huge distances of space. I also spoke briefly about white holes and the plausibility of bending space-time itself to travel through time.”
A look of confusion spread across Langstand’s face. His look slowly changed to one of understanding as the lecture and subsequent discussion flooded his memory. “Yes, now I remember you, Professor Greystrode. You laughed at my idea. I remember you pointing out your use of the word plausible and not possible.”
“Well, my friend, I am not laughing any longer. I think we might be able to begin using the word possible.”
“What! Do you mean you have solved your equations?” Langstand asked, as he jumped to his feet, unable to hide his growing excitement.
“In point of fact, only to a certain degree. More study must be conducted. However, yes, I believe such travel is now at least a theoretical possibility.”
“How … how soon?”
“That, my friend, depends to a great degree on the availability of funds for the research. Of course, the actual development and construction of a craft capable of making use of this theory will require more time and much more money. For example, there is currently no propulsion system capable of withstanding the immense gravity of a white hole. Nor is there a tested method of constructing a craft able to withstand the tremendous physical forces with which we must deal.”
“Money is the least problem you will have,” Langstand announced as he settled back into his chair.
“Deaths are beginning to reach pandemic proportions on some of the planets. Virtually every settled world has recorded deaths attributable to the ancient strains of defective DNA. Although tests are being performed, it is a long and tedious process,” Langstand explained. “If you can provide a solid case, we will have no trouble obtaining the necessary funds.”
And so it began.
* * *
A year later, the YTP group was ensconced in a facility that covered the equivalent of fourteen acres. The astrophysics team had completed their work. A phalanx of aeronautical engineers had assembled to work on the spacecraft. At the same time, a medical team grappled with a problem of equal difficulty. Historians, anthropologists and forensic scientists provided enough clues to make the team realize that current human physiology could not sustain life in the selected time-period. The cellular biochemistry of the mission team needed to be genetically engineered so they could survive the Earth during its early twenty-first century, when Earth’s pollution was reaching deadly characteristics.
Concurrently, archaeologists, geologists and more historians labored to select the proper landing site. So the work could remain undetected, a sparsely populated location in Earth’s Western Hemisphere was selected. It was determined that the early twenty-first century was the best time to target for their mission. Computer science was developed to the point where their intended manipulations could best be applied. It was early enough so that the project would not be very cumbersome and still take advantage of the technology available for the task. It was also many years before the first intra-galactic space flights occurred.
Even with all possible precautions, there remained a great fear that the presence of the team sent back in time would be revealed. Although such an accident must be avoided at all costs, they had to prepare for every eventuality. A thorough study of all available history of the time and the locale had been conducted. Unfortunately, only sparse data existed of the particulars of the period. Much had to be cobbled together from the information available. Everything from the physical appearance of the team to language to a believable explanation for their presence had to be accounted for. Food and other supplies would be sent to the mission team on a fixed schedule to eliminate the need for contact with the outside world and to minimize the degree of genetic engineering required to create the team.
The mathematical analysis had been completed, and the construction of the craft was well underway. The astronomers located a white hole suitable for the project’s purpose. Concurrent research and development had been conducted to determine the necessary cellular biochemical changes required to assure the survivability of the team of time travelers. The answer was to prepare a group of genetically engineered people. As abhorrent as it was to some, bodies had been exhumed from ancient graves in order to test their DNA for any clues that would help the genetics team. In fact, some of that DNA would be used to produce the team.
While other research continued, the genetically engineered team was created. It consisted of three males and two females. The genetically produced team thrived in a tightly controlled environment that matched, as carefully as possible, what was believed to be that of early twenty-first-century Earth. The team was schooled in every nuance of the selected time-period, as well as the technical knowledge they would need to complete their task. They were taught how to survive in what, to them, would be an alien environment.
At last, all was ready. Langstand and Greystrode stood together to watch the culmination of their project. Langstand felt a tear trickle down his cheek as the heavy door of the time traveling spacecraft slid shut. A moment later, the final countdown began. The small craft rose from its launch pad above a tail of fiery red and yellow flame. They stood, staring at the sky, long after the craft disappeared from view. The mission had begun to save the human race of the twenty-sixth century.
About the Author:
Kenneth Teicher is the author of the reader acclaimed Erin and Craig action/adventure series currently including The Alkano Letters, The Carthage Connection and Carved In Stone. The series follows the exploits of archeologist Erin Mathews and ex CIA agent Craig Johnson. These stories are the result of the author’s amateur passion for archeology that developed during more than forty-three years of travel to countless archeological sites in more than 37 countries. Science Fiction is the author’s other area of interest. Books include Gateway: The Shaula Intervention, A Matter of Time, The Mission and his current work in progress, The Yesterday Tree. The author and his wife count New York City, New York as their primary residence and maintain a second home in Los Angeles, California. They have two daughters and five grandchildren.
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