Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
Quintari looked out the huge view screens at the inky night sky. The eight dying stars still visible to the naked lens were faint and alone against their velvet backdrop. She addressed her long time companion. “Ventry, do you recall the old sky, when you were still flesh? So many visible stars in those days. If I still had those old organic eyes I should not be able to even see a pinprick of light when I look upon this pitiful smattering before us.”
Ventry clicked and whirred for a time. Even his seemingly indestructible parts, assembled with precision tolerances down to mere atoms in thickness, were starting to wear after all these thousands of millennia. “My files are so glitchy that far back. I don’t remember.”
She felt sorry for him. He was only two thousand years older than her but the silicells that made up his processor were flawed at the quantum level, and deteriorating much faster than hers. It mattered not anyhow. The universe was coming to an end. Everyone had known this for a long time. But now it was just the two of them, and it was real. It was finally approaching.
Suddenly he perked up and addressed her. “You will be the one you know?”
“I will be the one what?” she asked.
“You will be the end of it all.”
“What do you speak of you crazy old man?”
“We are the last. If not for us, this universe would already be over with.”
She highly respected the intelligence of her lifelong companion and wondered what he was getting at. “Okay, can you please explain it to me as if I were a child?” Sometimes when she conversed with Ventry she indeed felt like one.
He broadcasted a random friboppery of bubbles and blips, his version of a laugh. “After all we’ve talked about, after all the meditating, the inner searching, do you not see it yet?”
She stretched the corner of her avatar screen up at a rakish angle, her version of a smirk. “Of course I know the universe is cooling and expanding, dying in fact, faster than we ever predicted it would. But what philosophical connection are you trying to make?”
“Trying? Made it all ready!”
She loved his brilliance. “Please go on oh wise one.” Another smirk.
“My processor will deteriorate completely within a hundred thousand years, more or less, beyond any capability of thought; reduced to a pile of hiccupping circuits like dying embers in a fire.”
“Let’s assume you’re right,” she replied, knowing full well that he was.
“You will go on,” he continued, “assuming your advanced and far superior silicells don’t encounter some rogue radioactive attack or some such, for at least several more millions of years.
“I can only hope.”
“But eventually even the permabonds holding them together will weaken as they lose particles via dimensional osmosis, and you will shut down as well, the last survivor, the final intelligence of this ancient universe.”
“And then when I’m gone things will still go on. The husks of dead stars will continue to cool and race away from one another.”
“Oh you think so?”
“Well what would be the alternative?”
“You really don’t know Quintari my dear?”
“Just spare me the suspense and tell me my love.”
Then the wisest man who had ever lived told her. “This universe exists based solely on our perception and observance. Once you cease to exist it will die with you.”
Quintari sat silent, pondering the weight of this new information. Suddenly she felt like crying but didn’t know how.
Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
The team signaled goodbye to the assembled early humans. The tribe of twenty-three men, woman and children stood there in their animal skins. Many of them held the new tools. All of them now held the knowledge that had been passed on to them in the past four months.
Professor Smith would miss his subjects dearly. He had grown not only to care for them greatly but had come to think of them as family. It was the same with the other six researchers. There had been one more traveler when they arrived in the spring but a saber-toothed tiger had seen to her demise.
There was a flash of white light and then the early humans stood once more alone in the vast unscathed world.
Inside the machine the researchers all stood looking at one another. They remained silent during the twenty-minute time transfusion. They all knew well enough what they had done. The results of this experiment would be permanent as they all hoped to greatly advance the technology of the human race within their own lifetimes. The real mystery was what they would find when they got back home.
They would land less than a nanosecond after their initial departure; to witness the alternate future they had now created by introducing so many technological advances to the once uninformed bipedal creatures.
The humming of the wormhole engines wound down to a halt and the blackness outside the windows lightened once again to reveal the year 2013. And what a year they encountered!
All the roads seemed to be covered in a hard cement-like substance. Strange sleek horseless carriages raced by, traveling at least thirty or forty miles an hour. And the buildings, some of them reached ten or fifteen stories high!
The travelers huddled together behind their tinted glass. Never before had they witnessed such marvels. All of them, including Professor Smith, silently wished for their old slow world and simple architecture, with structures that rarely reached higher than two stories, and hand painted signs that didn’t light up. This was going to take some getting used to.
Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
The normally white bulbous head of the spacer became yellow as he indulged in triple Rotten Roxathdons on the rocks over the hours. He had been watching the fat Boojardin make his way drunkenly around the bar engaging one patron or another with his riddles and anecdotes. Now he stumbled this way.
Zitenius wanted nothing of it, he had come here to drink and reflect. But it was too late. The fat pink rolls undulated toward him, a slimy two fingered paw extended in friendship. The interloper slurred, “Related to the Thacktizites eh? Had a few too to be sure.” The repulsive being licked his lips. “You look different than them though, stockier,” he eyed the stranger some more, “but you’ve got their trait all right. Yer head’s about as yellow as a Reigel 9 radish!”
Zitenius refused the paw and kept drinking.
The drunken Boojardin didn’t seem to slow at this. He snapped his pink flipper toward the automated bartender and shouted, “Another double Evil Eargrub and another of whatever my yellow headed friend here is having.”
Metal arms, accompanied by the whirring of electric motors, quickly served the drinks. Zitenius took his without thanks, just a barely imperceptible nod as he tipped back the fresh Rotten Roxthdon.
The fat Boojardin kept right on. “Say pal, now that you’ve accepted my hospitality, how about a little story?”
Zitenius neither accepted nor refused. The interloper plowed on.
“Buddy of mine… spacer from the inner donut hole, says he ran into a strange fellow at the Century 4000 Tavern who told him that he was of a kind that never had portraits of themselves ever until their recent intergalactic integration introduced them to other species. Can you believe it pal? How nutty is that?”
The thus far quiet stranger suddenly slammed his cup down and turned his stare toward the portly pink drunkard. “Yes, I can believe it, because that was one of my people!”
The Boojardin looked positively excited at this. “Excellent! Now you must tell me, why good spacer, why no portraits?”
“Don’t you understand? We had no portraits of anything. Not ourselves, not a landscape, not a single thing!”
For the first time the fat Boojardin looked concerned. “But no, how you could never want to represent anything in facsimile?”
The stranger downed the rest of his drink. “I don’t understand it either. Now that I see all these other intelligent races I wonder how we missed it all this time.”
“Missed what good sir?”
“Why, art of course!”
“Art? You never had art?”
“No! And that’s why we never had a single portrait you see. Where your people once represented relations and ones deeply cared for by way of smearing colored ingredients into shapes and likenesses, which in turn developed into capturing images through light sensitive chemicals, which then evolved into moving pictures…”
The Boojardin interrupted dreamily as the light of recognition came on in his huge red eyes. “…which developed into digital imaging which quickly became three dimensional digi imaging. I see… truly fascinating.”
“Fascinating? Perhaps. But we don’t find it all that humorous or exciting.” He went on. “We have achieved great things; artificial intelligence, interstellar travel, amazing wonderful things.” He sighed and drained the rest of his cup. “But our world is plain and gray, without artistic curve or the simplest decoration. I feel we have missed the meaning of it all.”
The suddenly sympathetic Boojardin patted him on slumped shoulder, and pointed around the garishly decorated establishment with its multitude of diverse patrons. “There’s still time friend!”
Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
“Bring the accused forward.”
The robot sentries escorted Michael into the prisoner’s stand and closed the waist high gate behind him.
The magistrate read off his glowing pad. “Michael Maurice Frost, you have been charged with attempted corporate identification in the first degree. How do you plead?”
Michael cleared his dry throat. “Not guilty.”
Hushed voices erupted from the darkness all around. The magistrate manipulated a control and behind him a large screen lit up showing a CGI gavel that pounded audibly. The murmuring ceased.
“Well then, please tell me Mr. Frost, how many companies do you own?”
“Thirty-six your honor.”
“And what type of businesses are they sir?”
“Building supply stores your honor.”
“Uh, yes your honor.”
More murmuring from the darkness all around, again the gavel screen lit up and again the crowd was silenced.
“Well right there you are in strict violation of anti-corporate law number six.” Behind him the screen lit up again, showing the fourteen-paragraph law in its entirety.
The defendant leaned forward, “May I speak in my defense as to this violation?”
The magistrate made a sweeping motion with his hand, “But of course Mr. Frost. What say you to this charge?”
“My stores are quite different. No two sell exactly the same thing.”
Someone in the crowd yelled, “Shuffling!” Again the gavel banged.
The magistrate spoke. “As much as I deplore outbursts in my court, I have to agree with this rude and inappropriate audience member. Our investigators did find that you are guilty of the practice of shuffling. Just because each of your stores carries a minor item or two that the others don’t, doesn’t mean that they are engaged in different kinds of business.” He made a mark or two on his pad and then looking over his glasses said, “Argument invalid!”
There was a murmur of approval from the hidden crowd. The magistrate went on. “Now as to the charge of corporate logo infringement.”
Michael interrupted, “No two are the same!”
The magistrate leaned forward. “Do you think me an idiot Mr. Frost?” Behind him the screen lit up showing a cartoon handyman in blue overalls holding a handsaw. “Please identify this logo for the court.”
Michael responded, “That’s from the Mike’s Hardware sign in Sioux City.”
Beside it a very similar logo appeared. This time the handyman was in red overalls and was holding a hammer. “And this one?”
Michael cleared his throat again. “Crazy Mike’s Building Supplies in Topeka.”
A third appeared. This time the character was a cartoon beaver in yellow overalls holding another hammer but it was obvious that the same artist had drawn all three. “And this?”
Michael looked at his feet and muttered, “Big Mike’s Lumber in Calgary Alberta.”
The magistrate looked up from his the glow of his pad and said, “I could go on, but I don’t see any reason for it.” The gavel returned, replacing the characters on the screen. “Michael Maurice Frost, this court finds you guilty of attempted corporate identification, and sentences you to surrender all of your companies and their assets.” The gavel hammered once with finality.
“But, that’s not fair!”
“I’ll tell you what’s not fair sir!” He removed his glasses. “I can still remember a time when you couldn’t tell where you were anymore! It might be Chicago, it might be Vancouver, but there were those same damn yellow arches, those same four hotel chains, those same ugly movie theaters, and I will tell you good sir, I will never see us go back to those awful ways again. Court is adjourned!”
Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
Captain Alexander sat strapped into the pod. The others watched him through the facemasks of their sterilized white suits. Dobson, the head of the project gave him one last nod through the window of the control room as the countdown finished and the command was entered. And with a great white flash, through the wormhole the good captain went.
The next thing he knew the pod, with him in it, was whisked to the center of the galaxy in less than a nanosecond. The plethora of stars outside were brilliant. He floated there completely awestruck as he blinked around at the glowing nebulae without.
And then without warning the heart of the galaxy suddenly spoke to him.
For a moment his words caught in his throat, but he eventually managed to answer the unseen voice, “Who… who are you?”
“I am not a who, I am a what. I am no living thing, but a naturally occurring mass of matter and energy with calculating abilities. You would think of me as a computer.”
“A… a naturally occurring computer?”
“Yes, most galaxies have them. We even communicate with one another, but we are not truly complete until we are fertilized. Again, welcome traveler, you are the first, so you will be the seed of life.”
Captain Alexander meant to ask another question when suddenly all of his questions were answered at once. The pod disintegrated around him and instantly he was no longer the physical being he had just been. His life force was now pure energy and he was thoroughly integrated with the naturally occurring calculating mass. He was now hyper aware of everything.
He knew that he was indeed the first life to reach the heart of the galaxy. He was also aware of thousands of other life bearing planets. All at once he knew every heartbeat, every pulse, of every living thing in the galaxy. His consciousness was expanded beyond anything he could have possibly ever imagined.
Now the Milky Way was no longer a mindless mass but a living entity, with his super expanded mind at its center. He was the life force driving everything and anything. He whole-heartedly accepted his new position and knew with absolute certainty that from here on he would watch over all things, including the poor, sad, misguided souls back on the tiny blue planet of his origin.
And as his love for all things in the galaxy spread he conversed with other gods in other galaxies, and he knew that everything was always going to be most grand until the end of time. He knew this with his heart of hearts, and with his all-knowing mind and his precious soul.
Back in the lab the team stared at the catatonic man inside the pod. He had a distant smile on his otherwise blank face as a steady stream of drool ran down his chin. The team leader, Dobson addressed his second in command. “What happened Hutchinson?”
She stared at the numbers on her screen and said, “It’s going to take some time to figure out what exactly went wrong, but it’s obvious that he never went through.”
Dobson nodded, all the while thinking, poor bastard. “Yeah, at this point I think it’s safe to say that the mission was a complete and utter failure.”