EP334: The Eckener Alternative March 2, 2012

from Escape Pod· · · 3 listeners

By James L. Cambias Read by Mur Lafferty Discuss on our forums. Originally appeared in All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories, edited by David Moles, 2004 All stories by James L. Cambias All stories read by Mur Lafferty Rated all ages. Zeppelins! The Eckener Alternative by James L. Cambias The Hindenburg swung gently on the mast at [...]



By James L. Cambias Read by Mur Lafferty Discuss on our forums. Originally appeared in All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories, edited by David Moles, 2004 All stories by James L. Cambias All stories read by Mur Lafferty Rated all ages. Zeppelins! The Eckener Alternative by James L. Cambias The Hindenburg swung gently on the mast at Lakehurst as the sky over New Jersey turned to purple twilight.  All the passengers, the reporters, the newsreel men were gone.  A couple of sailors stood guard beneath the big ship to enforce the no- smoking rule. John Cavalli waited until the watchman below had turned away, then slid down the stern rope to the ground.  He hunkered down next to the big rolling anchor weight for a couple of minutes, then hurried off into the darkness beyond the floodlights. Once he was clear, Cavalli stopped to peel off the Russian army arctic commando suit he’d been wearing ever since the Zeppelin had lifted off from Frankfurt-am-Main.  It had kept him warm as he hid among the gas cells with his IR goggles and fire extinguisher, but now in the warmth of a spring evening it was stifling. He hit the RETURN button on his wristband and disappeared. # “You can’t make big changes,” said the instructor the first day of Temporal Studies class.  He was a very laid-back physicist recruited from California in 2020s.  “That’s the most important rule.  The folks we work for are the result of a particular set of historical events. Change history too much and their probability level drops below 50 percent.  If that happens, all this” — his gesture encompassed the Time Center — goes away and we’re out of a job.  If we even exist anymore.” A student in the row ahead of Cavalli raised his hand.  “What about making little changes?” “Little changes are fine.  We make little changes all the time.  Most of them are things like making long-term investments, buying up art treasures for safekeeping, keeping species from going extinct, that kind of thing.  You’re going to learn all about gauging the effect of changes, avoiding heterodynes and chaotic points, and when it’s okay to step on butterflies.” Cavalli was listening, but in the margin of his notebook he was doodling airships. # The timegate stage was dark and the control room was empty, just as he’d left it. The Coke can was still on the console.  Was it maybe a little further to the left than he remembered?  He stepped off the stage and took a drink.  Still tasted the same.  It would take a pretty big timeshift to change the flavor of Coca-Cola. Cavalli locked the door behind him with his purloined master key (the Time Center used mechanical locks because they were a bit more resistant to minor time-shifts) and headed for the library.  He found a book about Zeppelins he didn’t remember and skimmed the pages.  Hindenburg served safely until 1939; scrapped when WWII broke out.  No postwar Zeppelins.  The usual “return of the airship” speculations. Damn.  It hadn’t worked.  He had hoped erasing the vivid image of the Hindenburg fire would have been enough to keep passenger airships alive, but the war still marked the end of their era. # “So why don’t we stop things like the Holocaust or the firebombing of Dresden?” It was a relatively quiet dorm room party with half a dozen trainees blowing off steam after the first written exam.  Cavalli didn’t see who asked the question, but he sounded drunk. Anna Kyle, the third-year trainee, answered. “Too big.  The models predict major shifts in the 21st Century if there’s no Holocaust.  You lose the Cold War and the whole Jihad era.  We just stay away from World War II if we can help it.  Rescue a few things from museums before they get flattened, take some videos for historians, that’s all.” “Why not stop the whole war?[...]