“Okay, everyone, settle down,” Macomber addressed the auditorium.
The auditorium’s buzz of conversation faded into the unlimbering of data slates, audio recorders, and old-school paper notebooks.
“Shen-Yu has agreed to run tests as to whether or not tachyons can interact with the platinum-cobalt mesh from Hermes’ ion engine. But I don’t want to just leave it in their hands, especially since they don’t have much that’s confirmable. I want more theories, and better information. I have to brief the Secretary in four hours, and I don’t want to tell her that it’s all in the hands of a Chinese facility that has yet to scientifically validate its findings. So, let the theories fly.”
And the theories flew. Peterson, Andrews, Carr, Davis, and Nichols, shot down most of those theories from their row of chairs to the right of Macomber, mostly due to a lack of data from the vehicle’s passive sensors. Quantum entangled strings, chemical acceleration, wormholes, space-time wave distortions, and even riding gravitational waves all got shot down. Until, finally, someone did the smart thing and asked a question.
“If the vehicle was accelerated to superluminal speeds, why didn’t it peg the gravimeter?”
The gravimeter would register new gravimetric pulls, offset by the ion engine’s constant acceleration. But such a strong acceleration would register on the gravimeter as a very strong external force, and it hadn’t.
Macomber looked to his right.
“We don’t know,” said Peterson, who had finally gotten on board with the reality of Hermes’ position. “The satellite registered a brief gravimetric event at less than one G during the time frame, but that was it. We think this was when the mesh was torn off the spacecraft.”
“Excuse me,” said a young woman, who raised her hand.
“Yes, um, I don’t know your name.”
“Dr. Nina Elsbeth,” she said. “If the ship was accelerated up to the speeds shown, what caused it to decelerate to its present speed?”
“Our best guess,” Andrews said, “is that we’re dealing with physics that distort if not downright violate Newtonian notions of inertia and acceleration.”
The room started to grumble, but Andrews kept going. “After the mesh was torn free, whatever was acting on Hermes was gone, so it reverted to a state as if no force acted upon it, and then its own engine began to accelerate it.”
The room erupted into chaos with all protesting the impossibility of the lack of Newtonian reactions. Young and old alike jumped to their feet, calling into question Macomber’s team’s work. Except for Dr. Elsbeth who is performing some kind of calculation.
Andrews and Peterson—especially Peterson—vocally defended their assertions, and Nichols and Davis joined in, though with less gusto. Carr, as usual, sat back, letting others burn out their energy.
“Carr,” Macomber said, covering his clip-on mike with his palm, “Conference room, all of you, in half an hour. Bring Dr. Elsbeth.”