Author: David K Scholes
I didn’t recognize any of the positions in the job search booth.
Terra-forming Engineer, Change Field Manipulator, Short Tele-Shunt Engineer, Long Distance Teleportation Engineer, Unified Mind Sustainer, Alternate Reality Coordinator, Extra-Dimensional Tour Guide.
Though I could take a guess at what they might involve.
Whatever happened to the ubiquitous Business Analysts, Project Managers, and Executive Assistants. Not to mention Associate Professors, University Lecturers, and Research Fellows which were perhaps more in my line.
I hadn’t come that far up time – had I? Not more than the contracted period?
They had selected me on the basis of my Ph.D. in mathematics from the Australian National University. Not to mention my responses to some of the weirdest tests imaginable.
I was expecting a more formal reception and a little more guidance when I got here. Something more than the lone, barely civil, little bot ushering me into the job search booth.
“Take your time,” it said almost insolently. “Choose from any of these positions that interest you and that you appear qualified for. Once you have a job we can see about settling you in.”
I made my first selection and that’s when I got the treatment. The full treatment.
A bewildering battery of mind probe tests followed by a considerable array of virtual reality job scenarios. Somewhere among this I vaguely recalled an actual old fashioned face to face job interview with several distinctly non-human entities. I think my holograph went to them rather than the other way round. Though I really wasn’t quite sure.
Nothing down time, not even the weird tests I was subjected to down there, had prepared me for this and not surprisingly I failed miserably at my first up time job application. None of the potential employers up here wanting Time Travel Inconsistencies Mathematicians were interested in what I had to offer. It occurred to me that I might have been aiming too high.
The bot wanted me to press on with other job selections in the booth but the rigor of the job selection process together with my up time travel had resulted in brain fade.
A took a break in a very small transparent cubicle offered to me. After a heavily concentrated micro-sleep and some kind of mind nourishment I awoke refreshed and ready to continue. I became conscious of the many other job applicants that were around. Some of them resting, as I had, in the transparent cubicles.
I re-entered a job selection booth, not knowing if it was the same one, as there were so many of them.
I pressed on with my job selections: though with no better results. Failing for each position that I applied for. I began to wonder what I was doing here. Did these employers up time really want any of us down time savages?
I started to look for jobs that didn’t sound so grand. Maybe an up time equivalent of a laborer or cleaner.
Then I got a job. A position for an Efficient Debris Disposal Mathematician. It sounded like a grand title for a garbage disposer.
Going back down time wasn’t an option. The actuarial present value (discounted back to my time) of 50% of my contracted future earnings had already been paid to (and long since spent) by my family.
I realized these up time people knew what they were doing.
We down timers were never going to get the good jobs up here – just those they didn’t want to do themselves.
The up time employers were just going through the motions.
Author: David K Scholes
The three of us pored over the various 3D mind image, life force energy, and bio patterns.
The “B” team, consisting of robotic investigators stood ready to assist us.
There were, of course, other “A” teams and many, many other robot led “B’ teams, the world over, doing the same work. Fighting the same fight.
“They are getting almost impossible to detect now,” said the Prime investigator. “Their ability to replicate even a mind image or life force energy pattern is approaching perfection.”
I sighed remembering back when I was a boy – when fingerprints, retina scans, and voiceprints were enough for differentiation.
“That particular mind image,” I laser connected to it. “If you condense 10 minutes worth into 30 seconds, there’s something about it. Something not human.”
“Only problem now,” grumbled the Third “is determining what alien race we are dealing with.”
“If it even belongs to a race,” I countered.
Of the many extra-terrestrial and extra-dimensional visitors and occasional alternate reality visitors we received some were proven friendly and would never seek to take advantage of us. Just curious visitors.
The number of alien assumptions of existing human identities was far, far more than any Earth authority would ever admit to. If it were known it would lead to panic. The only plus was that almost all of them only ever appeared to be temporary. The Aliens, extra-terrestrial, extra-dimensional or whatever all had somewhere to go back to. They’d leave and we would do our best to clean up afterward.
Prime had made the joy ride in a car analogy but I didn’t like that comparison. Joy ride cars often got burned out.
I persisted with the mind image currently occupying our attention. “We’ll need to go back on this one – re-check everything; interview records, current surveillance, even the basics like retina scans and such, everything. There’s something not right about it.
“I think it’s one of them,” I added quietly “one of the non-recognisables.”
Both the Prime and the Third’s faces went white.
The non-recognisables were the hardest of all to deal with. Something in their natural form, even if we could expose it, that we would never normally recognise as any form of intelligent life. Some considered that these visitors were not temporary.
We meticulously worked through everything we had on this one and another A team with another Prime joined us.
The evidence, each just little things, started to accumulate. Even among the non-recognisables – there were different types; non-recognisable corporeals, non-recognisable non-corporeals, extreme transients that didn’t fit either of these categories and finally – them.
“I think it’s one of them,” I exclaimed.
“An abstract concept!” – the supercomputer beat both Primes to it.
“The assigned special forces surveillance team has lost track of the abstract’s assumed human form,” the Prime from my team suddenly exclaimed nervously “two of them were killed just before losing contact.”
Nobody had ever caught an abstract – not in assumed human form and most certainly not in its abstract form.
“Any sense from all of our analysis as to what abstract concept we are dealing with here?” I asked.
“Enmity, enmity is the primary concept registering here,” the supercomputer with its super emotion chip was best placed to answer this. “Perpetual enmity,” the supercomputer modified its initial statement.
“Hatred, perpetual hatred,” I exclaimed.
“This is too much for Special Forces,” exclaimed my Prime “even the SAS; get the Queller teams on it. Find it, dump it, before it returns to its abstract form.
If it returns I thought.
Author: David K Scholes
I awakened from the deep drug-induced sleep. The anti-nightmare medications had, at least to some extent, worked. Thank goodness for that. I couldn’t take another mind assault like last time. It would have broken me. I simply would never have woken up.
I hoped I hadn’t been woken early by a computer glitch.
The fact that I was still in sensory deprivation mode seemed unusual and gave me cause for concern.
There was a waiting period but with no way of measuring it and with no reference point it might have been only a few seconds or it might have been all of eternity. It certainly seemed like the latter.
Eventually, and to my great relief, the sleep/hibernation pod opened up. My sleep hazed vision was still limited but I could just see the nearby 3D computer display of my vital and other life signs. Within arms reach, that is if I could have moved my arms. Blood pressure, pulse rate, and temperature seemed within normal Earth human limits as was my life force energy level. Brian activity was above hyper level but I didn’t need a computer to tell me that.
I was still effectively frozen and knew that by now that should not be. I could just make out the real elapsed time since my initial sensory awakening – over 2 standard Earth hours. More than enough time for me to be med-checked, decontaminated if necessary, energy replenished, fully suited up and about my duties.
My unassisted vision slowly improved and I saw that there wasn’t anyone or anything to help me. Not even the soothing, reassuring voice of the normally, ever hovering, ubiquitous AI med-bots.
Those of my companions that I could see were still seemingly ensconced within their sleep/hibernation pods. Were they okay? I couldn’t tell. They should have been up and about by now. I was normally the last to come out of sleep/hibernation.
Slowly, but slowly, movement returned to my body. I found I was not restricted by the usual flexible force constraints that applied during sleep/hibernation. As I slowly rose out of the sleep/hibernation pod a great hunger fell upon me, completely overwhelming all other feelings I had.
Finally, a single lone med-bit appeared ready to inject me with a range of standard and medically proven nutrients. I shoved the irritating AI away
I had been through a lot since my awakening and now was not the time for intravenous fluid nourishment
“Computer,” I found I was yelling at the top of my voice, not even knowing if the central computer was still functioning properly “get me some solid nourishment. I’ll take some Hot Oat Meal, Blueberry Muffins, and an espresso coffee!”
As the central computer complied with my very reasonable request I began to feel a bit more like my old self.
Also, just then, the other sleep/hibernation pods started to yield up their occupants.
I was sure there was a time back deep in the distant past when ordinary people like us didn’t need to have to go to so much trouble just to get a good night’s sleep.
I told myself this as the first members of my family wearily emerged from their pods.
“You will be late for work Dad,” my eldest son called out.
Author: David K Scholes
“When they transported us down time to the original colony I thought we would at least have the place to ourselves,” Urrle was indignant. “Apart from the dinosaurs of course.”
“We did,” I replied, “we did for a while.”
“Until “they” started coming,” I could see that Urrle was really down.
“The tourists you mean?” I enquired. The damned tourists I thought taking 4D selfies everywhere they went and uploading them to the All Time, All Net.
“No, not them – they are a nuisance I grant you, but eventually they head back up time and we get a break before the next ones. Also, thankfully, we can’t view the All Time All Net here,” replied Urrle. “Nor are the semi-perms that spend half their time sunning around on their dinosaur farms down here that bad. They don’t bother us that much. No, it’s the crims, the other crims.”
“The other penal colonies you mean?” I asked. “We all know they have been sprouting up like mushrooms.”
“What I don’t understand,” persisted Urrle, “is that they have 180 million years to play with, in the Mesozoic era alone, why plonk everything here in this little patch?”
I had to admit that our little part of the Mesozoic era had become very crowded. More crowded than areas up time since the “Thinning” and the “Galactic Commitment”. No one had told us why. Not our cyborg guards, not the transportation guards as they brought down supplies and new inmates, not the tourists, not the crims or even borg guards from other penal colonies that we occasionally came in contact with.
“Eisenstein says that they only have a narrow time segment they can send things down too,” replied Terathh who was listening in to our conversation. “I couldn’t understand the math but I guess that’s why things are so crowded here.”
“It’s okay,” I said “or at least it was okay. I mean I was okay with all of that. I could have lived with it all. The circus that we have become down here, but now ___. “
“What is it Garth?” asked Urrle surprised by my uncharacteristic show of emotion
“You know I had to go over with one of the borgs when that new colony was set up over the range. Just to help out. I think it was the first of its kind.”
“Aliens?” I could see Urrle was guessing “Alien Crims or even Alien Prisoners of War?”
“Alien Crims have been here for a while,” I couldn’t understand how Urrle didn’t know this, “and also Alien prisoners of war, not just our prisoners but prisoners the senior members of the Galactic Alliance compelled us to take” It seemed like the Galactic Commitment had no limitations. “Including, among them some Drorne prisoners.”
Urrle’s face went white.
“Even that I could take,” I said “even Drorne prisoners of war down here in this pocket of time with us. Our sworn enemy who heaped so much humiliation on us when we were fighting men.”
“What then,” asked Urrle “what is it Garthh?”
“The new camp, everyone was old, all humans over 95…” I stopped, unable to speak.
“The tourists or the semi-perms would see them down here and would raise all hell up time!” exclaimed Urrle.
I shook my head. “They might get to see pretty much everything else but not this latest colony.”
“And how many more are to come before the Galactic Commitment ends?”
“I feel like the guy in that ancient movie when he discovered we the human race were eating people” said Urrle.”
Author: David K Scholes
“What was the cause of death?” I asked.
“Well,” replied the bot medical examiner, “they may both have died from sheer fright. Both of them experienced a huge increase in heart rate and blood pressure before their automatic personal protection systems infused them, too late, with blood pressure meds.”
I scratched my head wondering what in this large but mundane studio could have scared them so.
“Everything is smashed up,” I was thinking out loud “but some of this equipment suggests a virtual reality extreme experience. Maybe simulated alien combat or something more perverse.”
“I don’t think so,” offered the bot. I used a dreamcorder on them. The latest models can extract recent dreams hours after brain death or even full physical death.”
I shuddered at the thought. I had once briefly experimented with dreamcorders. To have your dreams recorded and then played back in 3D as if they were real life occurrences was bad enough but the thought of extracting recent dreams from a dead person revolted me.
“According to the dreamcorder visuals of both deceased,” the bot continued “they experienced the same nightmare. Above 10 on the sleep Richter scale. A nightmare that would never be included in any public movie and would be enough to kill most people.
My mind made the leap.
“It’s a repository,” I said with a degree of certainty. “An illegal dream repository.”
“Is there any other kind?” asked the bot “two dreamcorders back to back are a repository and illegal.”
I looked around at the damaged equipment; it was easy to see how I had mistaken it for an extreme virtual reality experience studio. Some of the equipment would be similar.
“There are no dreamcorders here,” I pointed out.
“Oh nothing so crude,” replied the med examiner “this material was extracted from many different dreamcorders.” The bot showed me something I’d never seen before and had not noticed among the debris. A small iridescent crystal. “This is a new form of dream storage – thousands of dreams in this small crystal.”
We called in the dream tech experts to give the place a full going over. While they were doing so the reluctant owner and his formidable escort came in on the hyper loop.
“We recovered a lot of dreams here and I do mean a lot,” said the human dream tech expert much later. “In fact hundreds of millions of dreams.”
“It’s not just any old dream repository then,” I exclaimed realizing we were on to something unprecedented. Later under some coercion, the repository owner admitted this was the principal dream repository for supply to clients who used the dark web. Getting their thrills vicariously by choosing from innocent and unknowing people’s dreams.
The two unfortunate dead people may or may not have known what was here. Perhaps they were just thrill seekers and suspected this place had something to offer them. In the end something more than they had bargained for.
I thought that was the end of it but a few days later my off-sider pulled me aside. They’ve been able to catalogue many of the dreams, actually trace them to particular people. “Yes,” I said, “so what!”
“Several of them close to 9 on the sleep Richter scale were actually yours. Some pretty weird stuff!”
“Oh!” was all I could manage. Though I was angry at the total loss of privacy.
“Don’t worry,” he replied we’ve deleted them from the evidence. “To save you any embarrassment!”
Somehow I felt like a criminal but it was my dreams that had been stolen.