Earth Two went missing. You’d think the reaction would have been shock and awe. It was more like “shucks” and “aaah.”
Generally, the Sol populace exhibited a collective disinterest. The exo-insurers decidedly did not, and I was called in. Planets did go missing. Usually, not ones as high profile as Earth Two, but when identifying and cataloging worlds on the close-to-curdling reaches of the Milky Way, funky stuff happened: supernovas, planetary collisions, gamma ray bursts, wave function collapses, accounting blunders.
As an interplanetary pencil pusher, I had to deal with the finer points of Earth Two being a corporate “rounding error.” When I dug into the case, it became crystal clear that someone had cleverly muddied the waters to make them appear deep. Major tomfoolery was afoot,
What I mean by that is Earth Two never seems to have existed at all. For over two centuries, some entity had inserted bogus interstellar surveying data into the galactic archive and somehow corrupted the cosmic ledger, backfilling the blockchain with convoluted legalities that read like the devil’s own End User Licensing Agreement.
A real cluster. Maybe not Virgo Supercluster-sized, but still a monumental mess to sort out. Luckily and literally, I had time on my side. The inside pocket of my jacket held a freejacked chrono-dowser. This was not strictly legal, but it was certainly efficient when tracking down anomalous activity far in the past, and my ever-tyrannical boss, Amalee La Terre, favored efficacy over ethics.
Through some closely guarded quantum divination, the device could hone in on inflection points in the past. In essence, the chrono-dowser could rewind time.
With a few critical caveats: Rewind Only–no spying into the future, only the past was in play. Read Only–no physically traveling back in time, only peeking into the past. Sheer Events Only–no retro-stalking or prurient pursuits, only past incidents severely rattling spacetime and creating massive branching in cosmic timelines were locatable.
But probably the most important thing to know about the chrono-dowser: it was unfailingly ironic.
Think I’m kidding?
Okay. Here’s where the Earth Two investigation led me: to the small town of Bend, Oregon, USA on March 7, 2019.
Why there and then?
On that day, Earth Two was both saved and doomed, because the last Blockbuster Video store in existence sold a very battered VCR tape of a way-below B-movie. A low budget clunker of a sci-fi flick about humanity screwing up our world and having to colonize a newly discovered exoplanet to survive.
The title: Earth Two.
A super forgettable film. Except to the kid that bought that old videotape. A kid who still used a VCR player. A kid who dreamed and eventually schemed cosmic things. A kid whose great great granddaughter became Amalee La Terre, the current presidium of Magellan Enterprises, the largest exoplanetary expediter in the galaxy. My boss.
In my jacket pocket, on my chrono-dowser, I had all the evidence I needed to expose the juiciest real estate scam in galactic history and lay low the biggest corporation in the cosmos.
So, why did I hesitate?
On that day of March 7, 2019 in that very last Blockbuster Video in Bend, Oregon, you should’ve seen the look on that kid’s face holding that ancient videotape with the lame title and cheesy sci-fi graphics. You should’ve seen that kid’s eyes light up with possibilities. It was like being at the very start of creation. A Big Bang moment. That kid held the future in his hands and in a very real sense did discover Earth Two.
Who was I to take that away from any of us?
Be kind. Sometimes, don’t rewind.