Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Julia sat in her boss’s office, barely taking up any room in the massive wingback chair, eyes locked across the massive wooden and steel desk at Tomas.

“I know something,” she began.

“I pay you to know things,” he didn’t give her the chance to finish, “and I pay you to go through the appropriate channels to make them known to me. I don’t have time for the low-level interruptions of the worker bees Julie.”

“Julia. My name’s Julia, and I know something you don’t know that you really, really want to, and if you want me to tell you, you’re going to have to sit quietly and listen.”

Tomas fought down the rage rising. He could throttle this insubordinate little bitch without a second thought, and an army of sycophants would dispose of the body without question, but his curiosity was, for the moment, the stronger impulse. Violence could wait. He sat back, steepled his fingers and held her with an icy stare.

“Enlighten me,” his tone flat, “but please do make it quick.”

Behind him, through a massive expanse of glass, the sun painted the sky in deep pink and violet hues as the day slowly turned to night.

“Your prediction system, your approach doesn’t work. It’s impossible to predict what someone else will do in the future, it’s only possible to predict our own individual futures, and only in the very near future before the iteration tree becomes super-massively complex.”

She paused and smiled a thin little smile.

“I know you never achieve your aspirational goal of violating the privacy of anyone else’s future.”

She straightened in her seat and held his stare. “This all amounts to nothing.”

“Well, if that’s true, how could you possibly know what I will or will not do in my future?” His tone smug now, amused as his response. “You’ve just told me you can’t know my future.”

“I can’t, not exactly, but I can extrapolate what happens to you from my own actions, from my own future. I have seen everything I may do in many of my possible futures, and from that, I can predict with relative certainty what your future holds.” She fumbled idly with her satchel as she talked, but her voice held steady.

“Well, I can tell you what your definite future holds, how about that?” Tomas leaned forward as he spoke now, all traces of amusement lost. “You won’t come to work tomorrow, because you’re fired. And you can find out how successful we’ve been on our project when our stock skyrockets, something you won’t benefit from as your options are revoked for cause. Did you see that future coming?”

“It doesn’t matter now.”

Julia fished a portable music player from her satchel, thumbed the ‘play’ button and began slowly sliding the volume from low to high.

“What on earth are you doing?” Tomas stood and pounded the desk, then started around the desk towards her. “I’m nearing the end of my patience, I could…” he stopped, teeth clenched, shaking.

“Kill me?” Julia finished the sentence for him. “I know. You have… will… maybe a hundred times. Some futures you have me killed, in some I take my own life, in a couple you even find the balls to kill me yourself.”

Tomas flinched as the sound coming from her music player suddenly hit a frequency that caused one eardrum to crackle like a radio tuned between stations. Seconds later it was gone, but the pain stopped him halfway around the desk.

“Once I realized there was no future in which I didn’t die, and how many of those futures you had a hand in, I figured out why, who you are and what you do. Then I searched for the one that had meaning.”

She found the right frequency and held there as the glass started to oscillate too.

“At least in this future, I amount to something.” Her smile now merely one of determination.

Behind Tomas the wall of glass shattered into a cloud of pebbled fragments, the pressure difference at altitude sucking the wreckage out into the early evening sky.

Tomas half turned, momentarily dumbfounded by the sight.

Julia hit him in the midsection with her shoulder at a full sprint, her momentum coupled with their combined mass carrying them both across the short distance and out into the cold air.

“In this one,” she screamed, still holding him as gravity turned their forward motion downward, “in this one you go with me, you pretentious little prick.”