Author: Thomas Desrochers
Effedel and Ifrit found each other in the subspace E-bands while they were still more than five thousand light-years apart. Both were on sponsored three-decade survey flights finding out just what exactly their sponsors had laid claim to, a venerable tradition dating back to man’s first extra-terrestrial colony.
The E-bands didn’t let much data through – transmitting astrographic data was out of the question – but were plenty fine for relaying voice communications.
“You know, Effie, it’s taken us three years to get close enough to send more than voice.”
Effedel laughed, his silky bass as charming as ever. “I know how you feel. I’m more than a little nervous!”
Ifrit smiled and admitted the concern he’d been sitting on for two years: “Being honest, I’ve never heard of two surveyors running into each other.”
“For good reason,” Ifrit snorted. “Nobody wants a corporate war on their hands.”
This was true. Corporations almost always coordinated their survey flights in an effort to avoid border conflicts. War, after all, was for the impoverished space-locked ‘corpses’ that fed on the scraps of the frontier powers. If survey boundaries overlapped it almost always meant a war was coming.
“Well,” Ifrit mused. “True. Then again, we both left nearly 10 years ago. If a war had been brewing, they would have briefed us.”
“Undoubtedly true. Nobody wants to send a survey ship off without warning them about might go wrong – too expensive.” Effedel sniffed thoughtfully. “I worry more about our computers, if I’m honest.”
When the two had decided to ‘meet’ by adjusting their survey paths to keep them within C- and D-band range they ran into a curious problem: the computers saw their reference object, a solar system with an obnoxiously bright collapsing star, as being on opposite sides of the universe. There was no room for confusion – each was using the same Universal Standard for 4-Dimensional Location Modeling, where a single ‘coordinate’ took 15 minutes to send across the E-band.
“Well, we’ll find out soon enough,” Ifrit said. “After two years of waiting I’m quite excited to get into the D-band. I’ve got some wonderful pictures of my balding parakeet to show you.”
Effedel laughed. He was mostly sure Ifrit was joking. Mostly. After all, who would be crazy enough to pay to ice a bird for thirty years?
A few minutes passed in silence.
Effedel spoke up: “Alright, we should be comfortably within the maximum. Firing off a D-band pulse.”
“Hey! I’ve got it,” Ifrit said. “Alright, running through the handshake. And,” a pause, “there we go. Let’s solve this. Transmitting astrographical charts.”
“I am as well,” Effedel confirmed.
The data transferred, the computers processed it. The two friends looked at the result and began to think. Seconds ran to minutes. A half hour went by.
Effedel snorted. “Damn.”
Ifrit started at the sudden noise. “What?”
“Well.” A pause. “You ever read any theory about the shape of the universe?”
“You know the theory about the toroidal universe?”
Ifrit admired the map again. The political ramifications would be enormous, yet there is was: two astrographs covering .1% of the known universe each, and contiguous along a single edge. The computers insisted that, based on standard relative-to-center, they were on opposite sides of the Known Universe. Here they were, simultaneously flying away from and toward each other. Growth had continued unabated a thousand years. No longer.
Effedel let out a low whistle. “From my boss to the top boss, they’re all gonna be pissed.”
“I hear that,” Ifrit muttered. “I just hope they let me have my Millie back.”