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The Time Ships

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The Time Ships is a 1995 science fiction novel by Stephen Baxter. It is an authorized sequel to The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.

After the events related in The Time Machine, the Time Traveler (his first name, Moses, is given in the novel but applied to the Time Traveler's younger self) prepares, in 1891, to return to the year 802,701 and save Weena, the Eloi who died in the fire with the Morlocks. He reveals that the quartz construction of the time machine is suffused with a radioactive substance he calls Plattnerite for the mysterious benefactor who gave him the sample to study twenty years ago, in 1871.

The Time Traveler departs into the future and stops in A.D. 657,209 when he notes the night sky has gone completely dark. He arrives and is abducted by a branch of Morlocks more culturally advanced than the ones he met before. One of their number, Nebogipfel (the name of a character from Wells' The Chronic Argonauts), explains after hearing the Time Traveler's own story that the conflict between Eloi and Morlocks never occurred due to the Writer's publication of the story that became The Time Machine. The timeline he sought to go to in inaccessible to him now. The Morlocks of this timeline have constructed a Dyson sphere around the inner solar system and use the Sun's energy to power it. Humans as the Time Traveler knows them live on the Earth below, which he must reach to get his Time Machine, which has aroused the Morlocks' curiosity.

The Morlocks have corrected Earth's axial tilt, so it's a simple matter to descend there from the Sphere. When he thinks he is unobserved, the Time Traveler attaches the levers and travels to 1873 to persuade his younger self to stop his research on Plattnerite. Nebogipfel, who took hold of the Time Traveler once he realized what he was doing, follows him there. As the Time Traveler attempts to persuade his younger self, whom he asks to call "Moses" to avoid confusion, to stop his research by providing Nebogipfel as proof that reality is changed by time travel, a tank-like Juggernaut pulls into Moses' yard. The army personnel on board, commanded by Hilary Bond and accompanied by an older version of the Time Traveler's friend Filby, take Moses, Nebogipfel, and the Time Traveler to their 1938, where World War One has stretched over twenty-four years due to the discovery of time travel which was influenced by the latter's work. England's major cities and all encased in Domes, and with the contributions on Austrian expatriate Kurt Gödel, the government hopes to win the war by altering Germany's history conclusively.

Nebogipfel explains to the Time Traveler that they've entered another future as a result of their actions in Moses' past. During another bombing raid on London by the Germans, Gödel provides a vial of Plattnerite and leads to the only escape available, a Time-Car prototype. Upon this and hearing what society after the war would be planned to be like (a pessimistic view mirroring Wells' own), the Time Traveller and Negogipfel mount the vehicle and insert the Plattnerite. Moses is killed in an explosion when he tries to save Gödel, and the Time-Car travels back to the Paleocene and is wrecked on a tree. After weeks of bare survival, the Time Traveler and Nebogipfel are discovered by a scouting party from the Chronic Expeditionary Force commanded by Hilary Bond that arrived from 1944 to find them based on their remains in her time. Some time later, a German Messerschmitt plane arrives over the campsite, drops a Carolinum bomb (analogous to an atomic bomb in our world; see Wells's The World Set Free), and devastates the time-traveling Juggernauts and all but twelve of the Force. Nebogipfel and the Time Traveller are away from the campsite at the time.

Over the next year and a half, the stranded soldiers under Hilary Bond's command start the colony of First London. In off moments, Nebogipfel has worked on repairing the Time-Car and acquired shavings of Plattnerite to power it on a journey through time. When the Time-Car is ready, the Time Traveller joing Nebogipfel in a fifty-million year journey through which they see First London expand and develop colonies on the moon and in Earth orbit. Eventually, human tampering with the Earth's environment renders the planet uninhabitable, and they depart for the stars. When the Time-Car finally stops due to loss of its Plattnerite fuel, Nebogipfel and the Time Traveller are tended by a Universal Constructor, a lifeform (or lifeforms) comprised of thousands of nanotechnological entities. Their goal is to harvest the energy of the sun to build time-travel vehicles from Plattnerite and travel to the beginning of the universe. However, this goal is not due to be completed for a million years.

Nebogipfel and the Time Traveller acquire enough Plattnerite to journey to when the Constructors have finished and journey back with them to time's beginning. At this central point from where all matter and energy and timelines branch off, the Time Traveler and Nebogipfel reenter their history and stop in 1871. It is revealed that the Time Traveler himself is the mysterious stranger who gave his younger self the Plattnerite sample under the alias "Gottfried Plattner". Nebogipfel, with his consciousness enhanced by his time with the Constructors, leaves the Time Traveler behind.

The Time Traveler journeys to A.D. 802,701 and just barely saves Weena from the death she suffered before. Since (the reader's led to suppose) traveling in time again would cause this reality to branch off and become inaccessible again, the Time Traveler destroyes the machine and encourages the Eloi in an Agrarian Revolution to reduce their dependence on the Morlocks for food and clothing, hoping to one day eliminate it entirely. As he works, the Time Traveller writes down the recounting of his adventures and seals them in a Plattnerite packet. Perhaps it will travel in time to a faithful scribe.

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