Trying to find a story I read a couple of years ago in an anthology, not sure when the story dates from but likely to be recent - the last decade or so.

The story has passengers travelling between stars via a series of jumps. The calibration of the drive is affected by a special metal, any of which has to be stored in a shielded compartment (I think the jumps were measured in 'degrees'). One of the passengers unwittingly takes some of this metal on board, which throws off the calculations for the jumps, and they jump into an alternative universe where there are no signs of any humans ever existing. They start to try to reverse their steps to get back to the known universe, but the reverse calculation seems impossible.

That's as much as I read of the story before I lost the book. After many dreams (feverish nightmares!) re-living this story, I need to know how it ends. I know it's not much to go on. The story name, author, or the anthology it appears in would be fantastic.

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    Note, Starman Jones by Heinlein has a similar "lost in space due to bad hyperspace jump calculations - reverse calculation impractical, no one has every become unlost before" plot line, but is clearly a different story. – Todd Wilcox Aug 9 at 14:01
up vote 46 down vote accepted

The story you’re thinking of is “Cascade Point”, a 1983 novella by Timothy Zahn. It appeared in a collection of his other stories, Cascade Point and Other Stories.

I can’t find any synopsis on-line, and I have hardcopy at home, not here, but what I recall matches your (few) details exactly. Additional details that may be helpful to your recollection is that one of the effects of the drive’s “active” mode is that you will see ghost images of yourself, arranged in a cross with you at the center, each image somewhat different, based on differences in your history due to having made different decisions. The special metal that disrupts the transit was in some sort of psych sensor; it was brought on-board and not secured in the special-metal vault because the psychologist, who was studying another passenger (his patient), didn’t realize that the device had the metal in it.

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