Monday Stories

New Fiction Every Monday

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Coming Soon…

The cover for the book "Things I Never Said"

The Cover! For now.

Hey, Hi! Hello! Listen, I know it’s been a while. But don’t worry, there’s a new story already slated for Monday, and another in the works for next Monday as well. Monday Stories isn’t abandoned. So that’s the good news.

And now the better news. I’m pleased and excited to announce a new short fiction anthology in the works, written by yours truly. Coming to leanpub this February (probably), get ready to read the Things I Never Said.

This book is a work of short fiction, essays, and even a novella based on the Angel Liz stories on this site. The selections in this book will be some of the best things I’ve written in over ten years of blogging and writing short fiction, as well as new stories and snippets from some of my apparently perpetually upcoming novels.

The plan for Things I Never Said is to have the book grow over the course of 2017. New stories that have never been published anywhere will be added, as will refined and updated versions of stories you’ve read on this site and essays or stories from other blogs and sites I’ve worked on over the years. If you buy the book when it comes out it’ll be shorter (and cheaper) than if you buy it in December of 2017, but every few weeks you’ll get an email telling you about the new stories or essays that have been added.

As always, your questions, comments and critiques are not just welcome but eagerly anticipated. I can’t wait to share with you all the Things I Never Said

Crow Moon

Leeland Davis shouldered his hunting rifle and looked up at the gibbous moon hanging high over the mountains. In two days a Crow Moon would rise full and ominous over the same mountains, and it would be time to get seeds gathered, tools fixed and plans made. Thirty days from now the Seed Moon would rise and it would be time to plant.

The newcomers didn’t understand the difference. They said that the moon was always the same, a statement that Leeland found inexplicable. Does a Thunder Moon rise over glittering snow? Would you plant seed under a Hunter’s Moon?

The newcomers said they visited the Moon on the way to this place. They say they came from far beyond the Moon, beyond the Sun even. Leeland was prepared to accept that, they certainly didn’t look human. He climbed back into his pickup and started up the engine, then waited for the heat to kick in and warm his hands so he could grip the steering wheel. He hadn’t really expected to shoot anything on this trip; the game had all migrated since the newcomers arrived.

Really, nothing had been the same since they landed in his fields. He found them standing outside their crashed ship, now little more than a hole in his corn, nearly-molten metal in the center of hole.

“Please,” said the one standing in front of the other two, and the word appeared in his brain without passing by his ears. Like the voice of an angel. And even as Leeland stopped and walked towards the newcomers one of the three fell and collapsed in on himself, never to move again. Leeland helped the other two to his house, gave them the entire upstairs; he didn’t need it, now that his sons had moved out. And for a few days they were quite grateful. They found his food odd but it kept them alive and made them healthy and they were grateful. They found his bedrooms quaint, but they were warm and safe and they were grateful. They weren’t always happy about what seemed to them to be neolithic conditions, but they were grateful.

“What is this place?” Deloi asked.

“Minnesota,” said Leeland, out loud.

“No, what planet is it?” Intoris. “Earth,” He replied. They laughed. Or rather, the feeling of laughter flooded briefly through Leeland’s mind.
“That word simply means ‘the planet where I live’. Everyone calls their home world that,” said Deloi. “What do you call this place when you speak to people from other planets?”

“We haven’t met any people from other planets,” Leeland answered. This time the feeling was one of blank incomprehension.

“Why not?” Asked Intoris. “They are everywhere. The Slorians have a trading post in your solar system. Two shipping lanes pass through this system. How is it you have never met anyone else? And if you haven’t, why weren’t you more surprised when you met us?”

Leeland didn’t know. He was a farmer. Maybe someone else had met people from other worlds, he said.

“Why do you call us all aliens?” Asked Intoris.

“I didn’t,” Said Leeland.

“Not with your breath, but in your thought.”

“I guess it’s just a useful word to refer to anyone who isn’t from here,” Leeland finally said.

“But the vast majority of people aren’t from here. And the moment you leave this planet you yourself are an alien.”

“I haven’t ever left the planet, I probably won’t ever leave the planet, and the vast majority of people I’ve ever met are from here. So from my point of view the name is appropriate.” Leeland countered. Deloi laughed. “He’s got you there, Intoris.”

The engine sputtered and rattled as Leeland pushed the pickup into gear and started off towards home. Intoris had tried to explain what it was about him and his friend that was spooking the game, but the concept didn’t really translate. “Some minds don’t like being touched,” Intoris said, and left it at that.

They had plenty of meat, and plenty of money for food; the newcomers didn’t eat all that much. But sometimes Leeland liked getting out of the house, out of that hazy range where he could feel the newcomers’ minds in his. Leeland Davis was well regarded in town as someone who didn’t lie or keep secrets, but a man has to feel safe in his own head if nowhere else. Besides, they weren’t all that careful in their communications and Leeland had started overhearing things.

They had been close-lipped –or is that close-minded?– about where they were from, and Leeland hadn’t pushed too hard. It was unlikely he would have understood anyway. At first the ideas that they used as language were hard to understand, and most of what he got from them was either vague impressions, like laughter, or just…static, nothingness. Something was transmitted, but he wasn’t wired to receive it.

In time, however, he started to learn the language and more and more of their thoughts were open to him. And a few times he heard very unsavory words, like “criminal”, “captured”, and “prison” in their thoughts back and forth.

As he got used to them their personalities became more distinct as well. Deloi was more gregarious, quicker to “laugh”, more accepting of earth food and customs; he’d even started wearing human clothing. Leeland had given Deloi some overalls that had belonged to Sten, Leeland’s oldest son. They didn’t really fit, but since they didn’t have sleeves all four of Deloi’s arms could be accommodated. It was all Leeland could do not to laugh at the sight.

Intoris refused to bend that far. He still wore his somewhat tattered but still quite impressive garb he had arrived in. To Leeland it looked like a specially tailored jumpsuit; all one piece with a curious closure down the front. It was cream colored, and the ash and soot from their arrival fell off of it almost immediately, before they even got into the pickup truck, that first night. It had two bands of iridescent color running in a loop over the top of Intoris’ top shoulders down to his hips. The one on the left was purple, the one on the right was an inexplicable shade of reddish orange.

Leeland noticed something wrong the moment he arrived home. The newcomers hated television–they said the lights from the screen were wrong, and it flickered in a way that hurt their eyes–but they loved the radio, and played it almost constantly. Tonight however it was silent.

He could feel their minds as he drove up, and when he was in the house he could hear traces of a conversation in that “static” of the language he couldn’t understand. Irrelevantly he remembered when he and his wife had used “college words” to talk over the children’s heads, and he realized that was what the newcomers were doing. Small bits of meaning floated by; things like “may as well…alone…they won’t…already paid…” and in the rush it was nearly impossible to identify which phrases were coming from which mind. In any event, all of it ceased when he walked through the kitchen door.

“I’m home” he announced out loud, although of course they already knew that. Deloi appeared suddenly in the doorway of the kitchen. “I am sorry you were unable to procure game,” he said and sat casually at the table. Newcomer or not, the gesture was familiar. Deloi couldn’t have been more transparent if he had been Joel Jorgenson from next door, pretending he hadn’t broken the window with his baseball. Intoris came down the stairs a moment later, and without a “word” turned on the radio and sat in the living room.

The three of them spent an uncomfortable half hour until Deloi suddenly stood and announced that he was going for a walk. With significant look at Interis he walked out the back door into the night. For the first time, Leeland felt Interis’ mind without Deloi’s on top of it.

“Leeland,” Interis said, and Leeland realized it was the first time either of them had used his name. “We must converse.”

And all at once Interis dumped the entirety of what had happened to him and his companion on their host.

Interis was what he called a “Keeper”, but what Leeland would have called a cop. Deloi and the newcomer who had died were prisoners, being transported from the world where they had been captured to the world where they would be incarcerated. Interis was the one who was supposed to transport them.

Except that wasn’t what happened. The ship had been taken from Interis’ control as they entered the Sol system, and had been driven to crash on the nearest possible world. The flight program had been set before they left. There was no escape. Interis wasn’t meant to survive. He realized, as they were going down, that this was why being a Keeper assigned to the incarceration world was a permanent assignment.

Oddly, Interis didn’t betray any anger or resentment over the callous nature of his attempted murder. He seemed to feel that one innocent life was a fair price for complete security from two criminals.

Leeland asked if Deloi was dangerous and Interis laughed. Deloi’s crime had been laughing in the middle of an artistic performance, disturbing the artists and irritating the local magistrate. Leeland asked if this was honestly a crime that deserved death and Interis seemed shocked by the question. Of course it was.

“However,” Interis said, “Since arriving here, we both feel a need to stay alive. Your planet, it is rest. We are not distracted every moment by people wishing to talk to us. We are not distracted by presentations of art. We both feel that we are free to focus. It is a freedom that we do not now wish to be without.”

And therein was the problem. When the ship crashed but before it exploded Interis had reported their location and that they had survived the crash. Through means unintelligible to Leeland they were now aware that another ship was coming with a single passenger. This newcomer would inspect the crash site and then likely take the other two prisoner, then all three of them would crash into the moon.

“If Deloi is destroyed, I will return to the force. If the ship the new Keeper arrives in is disabled, it will likely self-destruct, and the three of us will be on this world permanently. But to do so would be against the governing laws I am to abide by. I cannot do either of these things. Will you, Leeland, Please, will you adjudicate this situation for me?”

Leeland sat back. So that was it. Kill a…a person and two go back to a job they apparently enjoy, strand a third person on earth against their will, or do nothing and all three die on the moon.

Two nights later, the Crow Moon hanging in the sky, Leeland sat with his rifle looking out the uppermost window of his house. he watched a ship land in his cornfield, looking like a scientist’s dream. He watched a third newcomer step out, wearing a uniform that looked a lot like Interis’ own garb. He watched the three of them stand in a wary triangle. He heard the very edges of their thoughts. And he pulled the trigger.

It didn’t take long for Gaelon to adjust to life on earth. The three newcomers fell into the habit of reading and meditating during the day, and one month later, under a bright Seed Moon, the four of them went out to plant the cornfield, just as Leeland had done before his sons had moved away.

Author’s note: This story came from some writing prompts and a list of moon names in the back of a Field Notes notebook. With some work it might end up being something interesting.

Excerpt from “Redeemable”: Stories we Don’t Know

This is an excerpt from my NaNoWriMo novel this year, entitled Redeemable. I don’t have a ton of time to clean it up or make some of the more obscure passages make sense, so you’ll have to deal with a slightly weird story.

But you’re used to that.

Thank you for reading!

Every person carries their own little history in their head; the stories of who they are and what has happened to them. These stories are secret.

But that’s not what I’m talking about.

We think we know everything that happens. We think we know where everyone is most of the time, so we know most of what is going on in the world. We think that the things we don’t know about are small and useless things. Maybe someone is in love with someone else and we’re not really aware, but that’s not a big deal, right? Or maybe there are little crimes, people finding chemical delights in ways that we forbid. Again, not a huge deal.

But we’re wrong. Big things are invisible. Massive, earth moving stories and plots that simmer below the surface of our reality, they are there. They are undetected. Sometimes we see corners of them.

Let me tell you a story.

Once there was a man. He was named Lenny. He lived down here. He never married, but he dated quite a few girls. He worked in the botany lab, did solid but unimpressive research, progressed the sum total of our knowledge by an amount that moved along a linear path. He enjoyed painting in his free time. He slept almost exactly eight hours every night, based on when he went into and out of his bedroom.

About three years ago his paintings started getting weirder. He started including phrases in them, sometimes all on one painting, sometimes spread across multiple canvases. The phrases were nonsense. Things like “Arrows fly truest when aimed north,” Or “The sky? Ask me about it tomorrow.”

If they were secret messages to someone they were a very poor form of communication. They were seen by me (because of the spy cams), his girlfriend, and as far as we can tell nobody else. Ever.

One day he didn’t show up for work. Wait, let me back up. One day he came to work, and gave his boss a note. It read “I am in grave danger. If I have endangered the lab or our research I apologize. The Centarch does not rule alone down here.” He didn’t wait for her to read the note, he just went to work as if nothing had ever happened.

Three days later he didn’t show up for work. Still somewhat unnerved because of his cryptic little letter, his supervisor called his phone and got no answer. She emailed him and got an automated reply that said “I am unlikely to respond, but if I do it will be in two years.”

She asked the Centarch if they could find him. We sent out some people. And we found him. He was dead in a new tunnel, where cameras hadn’t been installed yet. We combed the footage of every path leading to that spot and he never appeared on any of it. He was found dead of a massive blow to the chest, literally a single punch that stopped his heart. But, even after death, he was smiling.

Four hours before his estimated time of death he was seen leaving his bedroom. Three hours after we found his body he was seen entering his bedroom. We also have footage of his autopsy, occurring at the exact same second when he was seen entering his room. In both videos we see his face clearly. When a team went to search his room, two hours later, there was a brand new painting, the paint still drying. He had not been seen carrying the canvas into that room.

The painting said “I forgot…” and was a picture of a small house under a beautiful yellow sun.

All of his paintings hang in the Mitzi gallery now. Many people find them quite inspirational. The story of his death isn’t told. We can’t tell it. Because we don’t know the half of it.

Sin

This story was originally part of my novel Pacifica which if all goes well will be available in some form or another by early 2017. This entire story line has been removed from that novel, so hey, I guess I can put it up here.

People have used a lot of words to describe Julian Baum. People who see him on the street with a data feed flickering on his mirrored shades would call him a tech rat. Cops call him a street punk. People who work for him call him an optimistic idiot, and people he works for generally call him “number one” or “lieutenant” or “that smarmy guy we hired”.

Oddly, very few people call him the names that are most descriptive, like “philosopher” or “poet”. They see his bright, cunning smile and short-cropped blond hair and they rarely see beyond those.

These days, Julian generally called himself a sinner.

Not that Julian was religious, far from it. But in his travels and studies he had come across the concept of sin and he couldn’t help but apply it to his current behavior.

Every new technology brings three things with it: a great help to humanity in general, a great diversion, and sin. Take television (Julian said to himself to distract himself from where he was going, the place his heart was racing to get to). Television gave us the ability to share audiovisual information across the globe. People could see places they could never afford to go in person, and the whole global community got closer. It also gave us mindless television programs, which ultimately overtook the original noble purpose. And it also brought late-night sleaze that was sinful, in the sense that it subverted the standards of the society that had created it. Ditto the internet. Did the internet change the world for the better? Yes. Was there a lot of mindless fluff on the net? Sure. Was there a lot of sleaze and sin on the net? Yes. It happened every time.

And it had happened again. (Julian thought about what had happened again, and turned a corner into a slightly less well maintained area of town) When the Spine had been invented it came with a neural interface that changed everything. Doubtlessly, it had brought a lot of good with it into the world. People had direct access to their information, interfaces were smaller and rapidly becoming cheaper than ever before, but already the world had shifted and new art forms were being created, as well as new ways to teach, new ways to operate on other people, new ways to build…the world had changed because of the Spine.

And the games were only a little bit behind the invention. There were tons of games for the Spine, tons of ways to disconnect from your immediate surroundings and let yourself explore a new and different world. There were great games, artistic games, but the majority of them were simple basic shooters that hadn’t changed much since the first computers. People still liked to pretend to blow things up without the risk of being hurt in the process.

And the sleaze had followed, as it always does. But even that wasn’t the bottom in this case. Something else had come. Something that wouldn’t have worked in any previous medium. And there was no other word for it than Sin.

It wasn’t any of the temptations of the flesh re-created in digital form. It wasn’t art, it wasn’t poetry or math or anything else so mundane. All those things worked through the senses, but this bypassed sense entirely.

Julian entered the house, the next few moments an unholy ritual. He paid the person standing at the desk, he got a small gray square of metal and a single, spoken number. He entered the door with the number he had been assigned. Inside the room was a…nest, a soft place where he could lay down, all his limbs supported. He sat back, uncovered the access port on his Spine, and attached the square to the access pad. Then he lay back.

The square wasn’t a program; that would have been distributed over the Internet. It wasn’t something that could be replicated in software; though many had tried. inside that small box of metal with its golden contact points was a wafer of graphene with imperfections in it. The graphene was a perfect conduit from every contact to every other contact point, meaning that every sense that flowed across the Spine’s neural contacts was relayed not only to every output, but also to every other input, where it would be reinterpreted and generate a new signal. The Spine would usually shut down the person’s actual motor controls at this point, sensing that such a feedback would send them breaking their arms and legs and head as they flailed like crazy.

But the sensations flowed. Sensations that had no earthly analog. Light color sound music violence love death heat death learning dying living hating exploding running every sense you’d ever had and more were poured into every sensor in your brain, echoed and reverberated over and over into sensations and thoughts and colors and patterns that couldn’t and wouldn’t exist anywhere ever again.

Because of the imperfections in the graphene sheet. As the impulses flowed across the sheet it would heat up, and impurities in the carbon would heat at different rates, making holes in the sheet, changing the flow of signals, repainting or reorchestrating the patterns as they flowed at differing speeds around those holes. The experience would change, would mutate into something brand new, but still similar, still carrying echoes of the previous experience. the longer you left it connected the more imperfections would blow out, until at last the sheet was in tatters and the gold connectors starting to melt. The chip had one logically wired chip that would sense when the sensations were starting to die down. It’s job was to slowly exclude various inputs from the sensations flowing across the graphene. Sight would slowly return, then hearing, then feeling, then smell, then taste. Finally you would be left back in the real world, usually close to where you lay down originally, but not always. You would lie there, spent, heart racing, your mind still swirling with color and feeling and light…and you would pull the small rectangle off of your Spine’s input pad and drop it in the trash. the rectangles were expensive to manufacture, and could only be used once. Every subsystem in the square was burned out by the heat of the graphene destroying itself. Occasionally the chip that was supposed to bring you back to earth malfunctioned and you would just black out when all the connections broke, your Spine forced into a reboot.

But you would throw the chip in the trash and walk outside into the real world and try to cope with the dull predictable colors and feelings and sensations and cause and effect and all the things that made the real world so boring.

Not many people had Enhancements yet, and fewer still would waste the obscene amounts of money this form of entertainment cost. But those that tried it always came back, because it was that good. And the fourth time Julian found himself considering killing a rich-looking person just to pay for another square he realized what it was.

It was Sin. It was the real essential thing. These days nobody outside of Bonneville actually believed in “sin” as a concept. If you weren’t hurting someone else you weren’t doing anything wrong. As long as everyone involved was happy with what was happening you were fine. This was definitely how Portland thought of most things. It was a most tolerant city.

But Sin wouldn’t leave you there. You could try to control it, try to budget for it even, only buying a square when you could afford it. But it wouldn’t let you. You would imagine it every moment of the day, mentally walking back to that place where you experienced it, reattaching that square in your mind’s eye a million times a day, letting the wave roll over you, disconnect you, take you to where everything was amazing. Your heart would race, you would almost feel as if you were really there again.

But only almost. It wasn’t the same thing. And you would look up, realize that at your current budget you were still a month away from being able to afford it, and you would reason that you could do without a few things to afford it right now, because then you would make it a month, no problem.

And that’s when you realized you were addicted. But people have been addicted to things forever, and humanity was pretty good at dealing with addictions. But addictions were bad things, right? Things that would eventually kill you. Things like booze, or…drugs. Julian had always been straight edge, partially because he didn’t like the idea of addiction, partially because “straight edge” sounded cool. But this was so far beyond that. This wasn’t anything that actually harmed your body. It was just feelings, and you can’t get hurt by feelings, right?

Only then you realized you needed those feelings again. You needed to get back to where you felt like that, because this life wasn’t a real thing. Only those feelings were the real thing.

And that was the Sin. You got the bait first, and then you discovered the hook. You got dragged along by it, you would do anything to have it again. You, a person who was definitely a “good” person, would cheat, lie, steal, whatever, just to get to that next little gray square. Every time you would tell yourself it was over, you had finished. Every time you would go back. You would find yourself walking randomly around town, right back to the same house. You would tell yourself every step of the way there that you were going to turn aside, you were going to go do something else, but you never did, you never did.

The nameless thing hadn’t existed for very long, maybe a year. And Julian had only discovered it four months ago. The people who ran the house were careful to keep people from seeing one another there, but Julian had been there often enough to see people, see what they looked like after they had used it. And he was starting to look that way too.

So he would go back to work, work hard, work with his mind clear and fight to keep it clear. But a week, or a few days, or even a few hours later he would find himself mentally walking those roads, back to that place, his heart racing as he imagined getting that little gray rectangle between his fingers, imagining its cool surface, imagining the sheet of experiences that hid within. And soon he would be back there, shaking just a little as he got ready for another three hours of the only thing that actually mattered.

Arguing With My Brain

Note: It’s NaNoWriMo! As usual, I’m participating! Also as usual, I’m behind. So this week’s story is less of a story and more of what’s going on in my head these days. I’m hoping my novel will spin off a few useful stories that I can give you in the next couple of weeks, and more intensive new fiction will start happening again in December.

Okay, we’re here, our laptop is open and on, and it’s time to start writing. Come on brain, let’s do this.

Or we could watch Netflix!

No. We don’t need to watch movies or silly TV shows. Binge watching is getting us nowhere.

We could watch Doctor Who!

Well, that sounds like a good idea–WAIT. No. Writing time.

In that case, we should check our email.

No. We are not checking our email either. This is where we actually make good on what we always say we are. We keep telling people that we’re a writer, now it’s time to actually write something.

YOU keep telling people that we are a writer. I am a lump of pink wrinkled fat sitting inside your skull. You write.

Listen, you know I can’t do this without you. I mean, I can’t really even be having this conversation without you. This whole conversation is basically you talking to yourself. I’m confused.

We both are!

ANYWAY I’ve opened Scrivener, and now it’s time to put smart words into our new book.

What’s in it for me? I’d rather just watch old re-runs of TV shows. Come on, you know you want to do that as well! If we watch TV, I’ll release a bunch of dopamine and we’ll feel good!

Well, if we write a bunch and get a sense of accomplishment we’ll feel good too.

Yeeeeeah, that seems like a lotta work.

That’s kinda the point. Yeah, it’s more work, but then we’re better for it, and maybe we can actually get something published this year instead of just saying we will and never doing it.

We have a job. We don’t need to write books. We need to relax after all that stress at work

Look, if we write books we won’t have to stress about work, because we’ll be rich and famous.

You’ll be rich and famous. I’ll still just be a lump.

Look, this isn’t “movie star” style fame we’re talking about, it’s literary fame. “From the mind of Nate Dickson” they’ll say. That’s you! You are the mind of Nate Dickson! If we do this, you’ll finally have your dream!

Smart people saying nice things about me?

That’s the one! But you know what people will say about you if we just sit around and watch re-runs?

What?

Nothing. Nobody talks about people who watch re-runs all day.

… Okay. Let’s write something. Start with this: “It was a dark and stormy night…”

Thank goodness for first drafts.

Time in a Bottle

Livid purple clouds convulsed in lightning-shot whorls as days, sometimes whole weeks, were destroyed. The wars had exacted their toll and the universe was still paying.

Inside the Enclave, however, it was quiet. The Archivist and his young friend the Acolyte were walking through the polished stone hallways. The Archivist wore soft shoes over his four feet, to reduce the noise made in this sacred place. The Acolyte went barefoot in respect. The Acolyte had his four arms folded under the drape of his robe, the iridescent blue of the robe a tasteful compliment to his iridescent purple carapace.

“It was good of you to come, dear son,” The Archivist said as they walked towards the museum wing of the Enclave. Age and worry had dulled the Archivist’s carapace to a mottled, matte purple, but the Acolyte revered rather than judged him for that. He wore the marks of his service like a badge, and deserved respect.

“Of course, revered one,” the Acolyte said. “I would obey your summons without question at any time, but your missive seems to imply that you have something of import to show me.”

The Archivist fluttered his wings in amusement. “You were ever the quick student. Indeed, I have been given permission, or rather I was asked, to bring you into a rather select circle of researchers. Your efforts in repairing the damages of the time storms have gained you quite a reputation.”

“I serve, as do we all, Magister.” the Acolyte said simply. His former master nodded and they walked in companionable silence until they reached the massive mechanized door of the museum. The Archivist led the way through the grand gallery, past the domed and arched public displays and through a smaller but more ornately formed door near the rear of the massive central chamber. The Acolyte’s trained eyes observed the minute play of light across the surface of the door; a subtle but sure sign that the door was phased, existing in many times at once, its reality a fabric rather than a thread. Whatever it was protecting was important indeed.

Beyond the phased door was a smaller but no less ornate room. On the walls hung rich tapestries, woven patterns displaying the flow of time through the weft and woof of reality, a symbol of the work they all did in the Enclave. But impressive as they were, the tapestries were not what drew the Acolyte’s eyes.

In the center of the room was a large dais, roughly five feet high. On this stood a wide shallow basin, made of a bronze-colored metal, and with a plethora of jewels set in the rim in patterns that would defy human imagination. All these were there to contain a Time Bubble; a captured and protected span of what the universe had been. It appeared as an oblong of dark space with two minute stars gleaming inside it. The Acolyte walked around it, observing. “It is quite small, perhaps fifteen thousand years?”

“Only nine thousand, but it is roughly thirty-six cubic light years.”

“So much space and so little time?” The Acolyte wondered.

“The species this Bubble contains is somewhat special, my friend. Come, observe.” The Archivist rested his four hands on four groups of jewels, his fingers caressing and sliding across the controls in intricate patterns. A large lens slid into place in front of them and focused on one of the two stars in the bubble.

“This is the home star of the species. They speak many languages, and even in their predominant languages there are many words for this star, but the ones we have chosen are Sol, or the Sun. The other star has a number of names near the beginning of the span we were able to capture, but near the end the species has settled on Alpha Proxima.”

“Such musical names,” the Acolyte commented. “And what does this species call itself?”

“Again, they are multilingual so there are many names: humanidad, ihmiskunta, katauhan, dynoliaeth…and a host of others.” the Archivist clicked the strange-sounding syllables. “But the one we have settled on is ‘humanity’. It has an odd double meaning in its host language. It refers both to the species as a whole and to treating others with respect.”

The Acolyte nodded. “And what is it that makes them worthy of such a grandiose environment?”

“There is a quality to humanity; not a physical quality, but one that seems built-in to the personality of each human. They believe that they are able to make the universe around them better through action.”

The Acolyte considered this ridiculous statement. The universe is just the universe, it is indifferent to the actions of an individual or a species. But he did not want to contradict the revered and august Archivist. Fortunately the Archivist continued.

“I know what you are thinking, indeed it’s what we have all thought when brought in contact with humanity and it’s odd ideas.”

“And what do you call this…odd quality of theirs?”

“Again my young friend we need to use one of their words here. They call it “aspiration”, another word with two meanings; for it means both ‘working to improve your lot in life’ and ‘breathing’. Apparently they consider one as essential to life as the other.”

“Revered Archivist, while this quality is interesting, it hardly seems to merit such an enclosure.”

The Archivist again fluttered his wings in amusement and said. “No? Observe with me.” The Archivist began manipulating the controls, setting the lens to a particular set of four-dimensional coordinates, speaking as he worked. “When we first contained this species, we had set it in a more traditional container. We captured just their world, and built a orrory around it to give them the appearance of a working solar system. They observed, and were able to tell that they were in a geocentric environment.”

“They discovered it? How?”

“They were, even then, before they had discovered electricity, planning to go to the stars. Through their observations they correctly deduced that the stars at the time were only a few miles beyond the atmosphere, and decided that such a trip was not outside of their abilities. Even though, at the time, it most certainly was.

“So we expanded their enclosure. We went back to the moment of capture and brought in the rest of their solar system. It wasn’t a perfect operation; we accidentally cracked the ninth planet in two, but in our naiveté we assumed they would never notice. What happened was interesting. Some of them maintained the idea that the universe was geocentric, while others did new experiments and discovered the heliocentric nature of space, and that the stars were much farther off than previously thought.”

“But…how did they retain that? From their point of view the universe never was geocentric…”

The Archivist shrugged, an odd, alien gesture he had picked up from humanity, and one that looked extremely odd when performed by a being with four arms. “We thought it was just an anomaly, but we’ve been running up against their racial memory over and over again. When we captured their world we removed some of the more fearsome predators so we could study the sentient beings. Their world had flying serpents that breathed fire, and we eradicated them. This was done before humanity had any written language or even a very strong oral tradition. We figured that the stories would die out eventually. But they held on to those stories throughout their history.

“At any rate, they kept surprising us.” The Archivist brushed the controls again and centered in on a small, unlikely looking craft moving very slowly along a beach until it suddenly left the ground, carrying a lone passenger. “Observe the time when this happens. This is humanity’s first powered flight. They were born without wings or any method of flying but decided not to let that stop them.”

“How novel,” the Acolyte admitted. The Archivist brushed the controls again and the picture jumped forward but a few decades and moved back, showing the planet as if in low orbit.

“Within the lifetimes of most members of the species, they went from that first crude flying machine to this:” As he spoke a bright light shone out and something came climbing up a column of smoke twinkling and winking bright as it climbed. The Acolyte leaned in for a better view.

“Are they…did they just…Are they leaving their atmosphere?”

The Archivist nodded. “In the most insane way possible. They are using barely controlled chemical reactions to propel themselves upward and out of their atmosphere. In just a few years they will land on their satellite. And here is where their history gets troublesome again.”

“How so?”

“In a few years they will do far more sophisticated measurements of the universe and discover that it’s curved around them. Again, a product of the time bubble. After that they will make plans to go to their nearest neighboring star. Well, we got worried; they clearly have every intention of doing just that. So we, that is, I, expanded the time bubble again…and they noticed, Again.”

“Surely not!”

“For quite a while inflationary cosmology was in vogue, and we were thankfully subtle enough that they never quite proved or disproved it. But by then we had a number of other problems. We’ve had to take a more active hand with this enclosure than any other. For example, two of them discovered the Cold Star technique.”

“But that would destabilize the enclosure entirely if it got out of control!”

“Indeed. We hastily modified the enclosure again, and after the first few experiments it stopped working. Then they discovered how to tap into the theta-wave network, which from their internal perspective appeared to be particles moving faster than the speed of light. They were able to send a few test signals from one part of their planet to another before we shielded the enclosure in this room.”

The Archivist had been tuning his controls so the lens showed each of these events in turn. The Acolyte grew still as he saw the evidence of his former master’s words.

“Sir, to what end do we keep this enclosure? They seem almost too dangerous.”

“Perhaps, but what is danger here at the end of time? Observe one more thing, and then I would ask a favor of you, my son.”

The Archivist tuned the lens to another point, near the end of the time span, far out from the home planet of the remarkable little race. “Do you see that craft?”

“Yes, sir.”

“There are three hundred humans on board, traveling toward Alpha Proxima. At sub-warp speeds. The craft, if it is lucky will get there in four hundred years. The problem is that they don’t have four hundred years, this enclosure runs out only seven years later. So we need to help them a little.”

“How do we do that?”

The Archivist tuned the lens back a bit. “At this point, when they are contemplating a trip to Alpha Proxima, they are considering another problem, and one that is, again, an artifact of the time bubble. They call it ‘dark matter’. You see, they have once again discovered that the apparent size of the universe and the amount of observable mass in the universe are widely disparate.”

This time the Acolyte didn’t comment. There was no way they should have made such a discovery, but he was beyond being surprised. The Archivist continued.

“They waste quite a bit of time and research on what is, of course, an insolvable problem, instead of working on propulsion or even hyperwarp travel. So we’re going to rectify the difference, far before they start studying it, and hope that they can refocus their efforts.

The Acolyte nodded. but had to ask, “Sir, to what end?”

“Think of what they have already accomplished. Perhaps, if we give them enough time, they can find a way to stop the storms and war outside, and through them we might find a path beyond our limits as well.”

The Acolyte nodded and the two silently began to work, minutely adjusting the equations that made up reality inside the fragile little bubble. It was intricate work, but familiar, and the Acolyte’s mind wandered a little.

“You are quite good to humanity, Master. If only…if only our own captors were as generous.”

“If only.”

Broken Wings

Paperwork. A lot of cops hated it, but Tremain always liked sitting in his office doing paperwork. It helped that he had an office, of course. But that wasn’t why he liked it. He liked doing paperwork because it meant he wasn’t outside getting yelled and/or shot at. Paperwork was a vain but pleasant attempt at making any form of sense of the world outside.

He was just getting ready to start writing up a requisition when there as a knock at his door. “Hey, Tremain, we’ve got someone here to see you.”

The door opened and a small, scared girl…no. She was tiny, but she was an adult. A small, scared woman entered his office, her eyes wide.

“Can I help you?” Tremain asked. He stood and motioned her to a chair in front of his desk. She sat silent for a few seconds, clearly gathering her courage and said, “Are you Alan Tremain?”

“That’s me. How can I help? Are you in trouble?” He looked the woman over quickly. He was able to take her appearance in without spending a lot of time looking at her. Her long brown hair was neatly combed, but not recently washed. Her dress was a simple floral print, a little too big for her. The style looked like it should have been a knee-length, but on her it went to mid calf, even when she was sitting. It was of a very conservative cut or else it would have been quite revealing up top. It was also at least twenty years out of date; suggesting she bought it from a thrift store. She carried no purse, just a small wallet. Her eyes were wide and scared. She was tiny, her skin tone a light olive shade, possibly Italian. Her features were finely formed and flawless; only a very careful examination of her face, particularly her eyes, belied her real age. Passing her on the street you could easily mistake her for a young teenager.

“It’s about Liz…She says she trusts you.”

“Liz… You mean the lady who calls herself ‘Angel Liz’? The one who keeps writing to me?”

The woman nodded. “She told me you would know who I am. I’m Jenny.”

Tremain had read all of Liz’s letters over and over. “Jenny…from the first letter? The roommate that she saved from Vincent?”

Jenny seemed to shrink in on herself even more when he mentioned Vince. “Where is he?” She asked in a small voice.

“Last I heard he’d been transferred to a federal prison. Between Liz’s testimony, some… things we found out behind your old trailer, and some things we found in his apartment, he’s going to be there for quite a while.”

“Like a rabbit,” Tremain thought. “She didn’t relax when I told her that, she just decided she doesn’t have to run away right this second. She’s still terrified.”

“But, if you’re Jenny, what are you doing here? I thought you were in California.”

Jenny smiled a little, and only briefly. “No, I never went to California. That was just something Lizzie told Vince so he would stop trying to find me. I live…I live downtown now.”

Tremain had heard that specific slang before. “You mean you live in the tunnels, right? The runoff tunnels, under the city?”

She looked startled, then nodded very slightly. “Liz found me a place, and found someone to help take care of me down there. It’s a good place! It’s warm and safe and I’ve got a nice bed and walls. Lizzie brings me money and food when she can. Now that she’s taken care of Vince we’re looking for an apartment again.”

“So Liz lives down there too.”

Jenny just looked scared.

“Okay, never mind, Jenny…Richards, right?”

“Richmond, actually. Lizzie…isn’t good with names.”

“Okay, Jenny Richmond.” Tremain resisted the urge to write that down somewhere. “Why did you come to see me?”

Jenny shifted in her seat. She looked down at her hands for a long moment, then looked up into Tremain’s eyes, looking for help. He realized he was sitting on the edge of his desk, towering over her. He stood up, didn’t react when she cowered away from him, and sat behind his desk. There, now he was farther away, there was a desk between them, and he was closer to her eye level. In a quiet voice he asked again. “You came to see me, and said it’s about Liz. Is there a problem? Is Liz in trouble?”

Jenny looked him in the eye and nodded. Having a desk between them seemed to help, and she found her voice again.

“It’s that guy she brought back from Idaho. Benny.”

“The one she calls ‘Bigfoot’ in her letter,” Tremain prompted. Jenny nodded again. “When she brought him here she thought she had him under control. She told everyone…downtown…that he was tame now. But he never looked tame. He…he snarls a lot and looks at people…like they’re food. But Lizzie seemed to be able to keep him in line, so we believed her.”

She seemed to run out of steam, or the next part was hard to admit.

“Anyway, she went to the Bellagio to verify what Benny had told her, and when she saw she couldn’t fix the problems herself she went and wrote you that letter. The problem was, she left Benny downtown. When she’d been gone a little while he looked up and smiled, but it wasn’t happy. He looked at me and said “I’m free,” and then turned and walked out of our little house down there. He…He hurt some people, and scared a lot of people, kids even, and…and he stole some money and food. I don’t know if you know what it’s like down there…but you don’t do that, Detective. You just…you can’t.”

Tremain put a hand over his eyes wearily.

“Anyway, some people caught him and held him, and threw him in the pit. And when Lizzie came back from the Bellagio, they took her as well. She’s being held in a cell down there.”

Tremain put his head in his hands. “Liz Liz Lizzie Liz,” he mumbled. “Why did you have to go and start thinking you’re an angel?” He asked.

“What makes you think she isn’t?” Jenny said sharply.

“I’m…sorry?” Tremain looked up. Jenny was sitting up tall, looking defiant. Scared, but defiant.

“You’ve never met Lizzie. You’ve never even seen her, have you? So how would you know she’s not an angel?”

Jenny was leaning back now, the fear overcoming the defiance, but she kept talking.

“I’ve seen Lizzie do things that no human could do. I’ve seen her power. Detective, Lizzie is an angel, just like I’m part elf and you’re…” she broke off suddenly.

“I’m what?” Tremain asked quietly, but Jenny sat back, hand over her mouth and shook her head.

“What am I, Jenny?”

“Lizzie will tell you,” Jenny whispered.

Here’s where you know how good you are, Tremain told himself. I could turn bad cop. I could shout and scare it out of her. I could terrify her, be a man, be a big ball of violence and authority. Or I could realize it’s not that important, and let it drop.

He let it drop.

“What do you want me to do?” He asked instead. Technically people having their own courts underground was illegal, but Vegas is a big city and there are a lot of illegal things going on all the time and at least this one is semi-orderly.

“Liz wants you to come arrest Benny. That way he’s out of the tunnels and they’ll let her go if he’s out of their way.

“But…detective…There’s a condition.”

“Oh?”

“You can’t…you can’t arrest anyone else. I know that living downtown is probably illegal, and there’s probably stuff going on down there that you don’t want to see as a cop…”

Tremain waved her off.

“I don’t have time to arrest people for trying to stay alive. Okay, Liz wants me to walk down to the tunnels, I’m guessing without any other cops,right?” Jenny paused, then nodded minutely. “Once I’m down there I’m supposed to take custody of a huge violent man she imported from Idaho. I thought she said he was in Utah?”

Jenny just shrugged, and Tremain continued.

“So what’s in it for me? Why would I do this? Why wouldn’t I just re-arrest Liz? If she’s an angel, why doesn’t she just set herself free?” He asked. That last question was deliberately mean, and he immediately felt bad about asking it.

To Tremain’s chagrin it worked. Jenny sat up again, smiled serenely, drawing on some strength that hadn’t been there before. “If you need there to be ‘something in it for you’, you’re not the man Lizzie thought you were.”

Tremain sat back, stared at the ceiling. This went against everything. Everything. You don’t go off on your own, you don’t make deals with criminals, even low-level ones whose only crime was staying alive. You don’t “turn a blind eye” to things to make an arrest.

Well, okay, lots of cops do these things; all of them. All the time. Police work isn’t all black and white, there’s a lot of give and take. But still, this…this went against…

He stopped arguing. He was going to do it. He knew he was. So why argue with himself? Instead he stood up, took his coat off the back of the door and said. “Okay. Take me to your angel.”

Health and Wellness

Good Morning, and welcome to the DynaStar™ LifeCare™ Pavilion. I am CareBot™, and will help you prepare for your visit. A certified LifeCare™ provider will be with you shortly. Please undress and re-dress in the provided gown.

Now that you are dressed, please answer a few questions so that our LifeCare™ provider can help you reach your wellness goals.

What is the reason for your visit today?

I sprained my wrist playing racquetball

I am sorry to hear that you have sustained a sports-related injury to your wrist. Our LifeCare™ providers are experts in sports medicine. Please answer a few more background questions to ensure that the care you receive will meet your personal care profile.

Do you drink?

no

Smoke?

no

Take any recreational drugs of any sort?

no

At any time in the last 7 days have you felt hopeless?

no

At any time in the last 7 days have you felt helpless?

It’s really hard to type with a sprained wrist.

I apologize if the input process is causing you any additional pain. All LifeCare™ providers are highly rated in the area of pain management. We will be gratified to help you meet your pain goals. If you prefer, I can enable audio input for this questionnaire. Would you prefer to give audio responses, bearing in mind that your responses may be recorded for quality assurance and legal review purposes?

yes

You may now answer verbally, and I will transcribe your responses. At any time in the last 7 days have you felt helpless?

No, I’m fine.

What is your goal for your visit today?

I want my wrist to feel better so I can go back to work.

I appreciate your honesty. All LifeCare™ providers are highly rated in the area of pain management. We will be gratified to help you meet your pain goals.

Just a few more questions.

Our records show that you are not married or in a relationship. Has this changed?

What? Why are you asking?

We are working to provide a care plan that will encompass your entire life. We seek to provide solutions that fit harmoniously with your preferred lifestyle. We have found that understanding a person’s emotional landscape is indispensable in providing top notch care.

Fine. No, I don’t have a spouse or significant other.

Looking at your accounts on social media, it does not appear that you have close relationships with your family. Is still the case?

How did you sign into my social media accounts?

When you became a client of the DynaStar™ family of services you consented to some limited studies of your online profile, with the understanding that such information will only be used to help us care for you. Rest assured that DynaStar™ will not share your information–

Fine. No, I’m not close with my family.

Input is not required at this time. Rest assured that DynaStar™ will not share your information with any third parties, and that information gleaned from social media will be handled in accordance with all applicable state and federal laws. It does not appear that you ave close relationships with your family. Is this still the case?

I am not particularly close with my family, no.

Our records show that this is your seventh visit to the DynaStar™ LifeCare™ Pavilion in the past twelve months. DynaStar™ understands that life has its ups and downs. While DynaStar™ is always here for you, most of our LifeCare™ clients visit between two and four times per year. Furthermore your visits have been more frequent than normal over the past three years. Are you suffering from an undisclosed chronic condition that would explain your higher-than-average number of visits?

no. Look, I just sprained my wrist, it’s no big deal.

How often, per week, do you exercise, where “exercise” is defined as a specific physical activity, designed to strengthen the body, and lasting for at least thirty minutes per session?

Five.

Please rest assured that all answers to this wellness survey are confidential and you may be entirely honest. Would you like to amend any of your answers up to this point?

No. I really play racquetball or go running around four or five times a week. That’s how I sprained my wrist.

While we understand your desire for privacy, your LifeCare™ provider can only supply the kind of world-class care you have come to expect from DynaStar™ if your answers are entirely honest. Given your height, weight, current resting heart rate, and frequency of visits, your answer to the question about exercise seems unlikely. Would you like to provide a new answer?

2 times per week. Is that the answer you’re looking for?

Thank you. Your new answer has been accepted and the previous answer replaced. DynaStar™ is grateful for your increased trust in our services.

Expressed as percentage, what would you say your wellness quotient is at this moment?

Um, I guess…75%?

I see. Please help me understand. Your reason for visiting is a sports-related injury to your wrist. On average, our LifeCare clients rate such an injury as having a seven percent impact on their wellness quotient. Are you suffering from any other conditions that would explain the 18% discrepancy between your answer and others?

I…what? I don’t know. I guess I’m just a little sick and tired of this and —

I understand. Feelings of fatigue and general malaise can indeed have a major impact on your overall wellness. Thank you for your responses to this questionnaire. I am now reviewing your responses and formulating a wellness plan for you.

Fine. Whatever.

May I take that as permission to enact a wellness plan? Giving permission in advance will expedite your care and help us serve you without delay.

Yes, fine, you have my permission. Let’s enact this health care plan.

Thank you. Your response has been recorded. I am now reviewing your case with a LifeCare™ provider, so that they will be aware of your situation and able to provide top notch care.

Okay! I have formulated your care plan. We have taken your responses and information from other sources, and found that your wellness quotient is 3%

What? I said 75%

Input is not requested at this time. Your answers, your social profile, your propensity for lying on questionnaires, your frequent visits to health care providers have led to our AccuScore™ assessment of your overall wellness. Furthermore, your lack of connections suggests that other DynaStar™ clients would be better served by ending your care, as doing so will free up resources for dynamic and active health care participants.

Hey, why is this door locked? HEY!

Input is not requested at this time. We would like to thank you for your pre-approval for our healthcare plan. We are pleased to say that your insurance has also approved this plan. Given your wellness quotient, we have implemented the InfiniRest™ carbon dioxide life cessation therapy. While InfiniRest™ is a gentle end-of-life solution, for the safety of our other clients we have sealed the door of your care suite.

Look, it’s just a sprained wrist! Let me out! I’m fine! yawn

The InfiniRest™ process should be complete in just a few minutes. You should be feeling relaxed and at ease now. For your comfort in this time of transition, please stop trying to open the door of your care suite and lay back on the exam bed. Thank you for choosing the DynaStar™ family of services for your end-of-life care.

Children of the Desert

It had been three weeks since the last note from “Angel Liz”. Alan Tremain had put her almost entirely out of his mind when he was heading into work, mentally preparing himself for a peacefully boring graveyard shift.

The moment he walked into the office, however, it was obvious the night had other things in store. Several officers were getting into heavy padded gear…the bomb squad.

“What’s up?” Alan asked the first person who would hold still long enough to answer the question. The officer looked up, smirked and said “hey, Chief! Detective Tremain is here!”

Tremain walked over to the chief’s office. “Did you want to see me, Chief?”

The Chief of Police looked up and said “We got another letter from your girlfriend, Detective. Why don’t you give it a once over?” and he passed a paper over the desk to Tremain.

“Where was this one found?”

“On your desk, which is frustrating because we have cameras all over this office and…”

“And there’s a glitch in the recording. Before the glitch, no letter. After the glitch, letter. I really wonder how she does it.”

“So do the I.T. guys. They’re about to move in with Frodo and renounce technology over this one. Anyway, read this, we’ll talk after.

The letter seemed to be printed on the same cheap paper, with the same cheap printer as the last two. A small corner neatly cut from the bottom corner said that someone in forensics was making sure of that fact. The letter said:

Hello again Alan! Did you miss me?

I’m sure you did. I’ve been up north, learning about what it means to be an angel. Studying the ways of the Children of the Desert. Did you know that people up there already knew that humans were angels? They have it backwards, though. they think being a good person makes you an angel. They don’t realize that you’re an angel from the beginning, and eventually your angel-ness makes you good. But they taught me a lot, and tried to teach me a lot more. But I’ve got other things on my mind.

For example, I met Bigfoot. Did you know he was real? Do you know why nobody ever really sees him, or finds his dead body? Because he’s immortal! And there’s only one of him. He’s been around forever, and until now he’s been in Utah scaring Mormons, which he thinks is funny.

He is an evil creature, evil to the bones of him. But I have bound him with my Angelic Word, and he cannot go against me now. He must do as I bid, even though he thinks he’s secretly plotting against me. Isn’t Evil funny that way? They’re always convinced what they’re doing is their idea. Like Vince. How is he by the way?

Anyway I have Bigfoot here with me. I bound him and brought him with me. I mean, just because he’s a walking hairy ball of fury doesn’t mean I can’t use him. In fact he’s already been useful.

I’ve been foolish so far, Detective. I thought I was the first, maybe the only, Other to know what I was. I’m not of course. Bigfoot knows some of them, and to gain my trust he sold out one of his buddies here in LV to me. And while he may be a monster I know his information is real. So I’ll tell you.

The Beast that sleeps beneath the Luxor has weakened a critical electrical breaker box in the Bellagio. In a few days, not sure when, it’s going to short out. When it does it will start a fire that will spread quickly, killing any who are in the hotel or casino. An electrical short wouldn’t burn down a building by itself, duh. But the Beast has planted a bomb in the large emergency generator under the Bellagio, and when the power spike hits that bomb the building will go up. Get someone over there now, find that bomb, find that short, and you’ll see that Angel Liz is doing the work of Goodness and helping you in your work as well.

I have a feeling that the day of our meeting is not far off now, Detective. I have already bound one Evil minion to my will, I hope soon to join with you, not as a minion or master but an ally, both of us doing the work of Light.

I’ve been realizing something. I’ve always been a mirror, just, like, reflecting everything the world has chosen to send my way. But I can’t be that any more. I’m an angel. I’m a light on a hill. I’m a lens, focusing the light.


Speak to me of your fears and I will help you carry them.
Speak to me of your suffering and I will bear you up.
Speak to me of your burning passion and I too will catch fire.
Speak to me of your ardent faith and I will be strengthened.
Speak to me of duty and I will try to understand.
Speak to me from a committee and I will ignore you.

Angel Liz

Tremain read the letter and sighed. She was getting worse, and now apparently she had help.

Just then the Chief poked his head around the corner. “Alan. The squad just radioed back. They found an explosive device under the Bellagio, and have disabled it. Whoever built the thing was rich, it’s one of the most sophisticated they’ve seen in a while. They’ve got electricians in looking for a fault. in the wiring, but it looks like your Angel was right.” The Chief smiled broadly and said, “Be sure to tell her thanks when you have your ‘meeting’ with her.”

Much Too Fast

There are several problems with trying to travel faster than light.

The first, of course, is getting matter to move that fast without expending all the energy in the universe. The “c” in E=mc2 seems to be a firm speed limit.

But humanity has never been fond of limits, and eventually found a way around that speed limit. With great pomp and ceremony the first ever “super-c” ship was launched…and crashed almost immediately into a micrometeorite. The explosion was fascinating and quite pretty; it’s not every day an explosion seems to suddenly appear and then shrink back down to a single point, then explode again as time and lightspeed catch up with the event. This led to the second problem with trying to travel faster than light: you can’t really see where you’re going, only where you’ve been. It’s like a metaphor for life. And, much like life, things you didn’t see coming can ruin your day.

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