Author : Steven Journey

“It isn’t that simple!” Shelly couldn’t hide the exasperation in her voice.

Dr. Keroth was an impatient man, and understandably so. He needed this time machine to work to save his wife.

“Look, you need to stop thinking of this as a time machine. It’s a time and space machine. We can’t just say “let’s go back to 1st March 1393” and expect to arrive there. For one, it can’t work on dates. Calendars are a human invention, and have changed so much throughout history. Subatomic particles don’t understand leap days. They understand the underlying rhythm of the universe. But that’s not my point, we’ve solved that already and we can pinpoint the exact time we wish to send you back. It’s where you end up that’s the difficult part.

Earth is revolving. If I sent you back twelve hours to where you are now, because of earth’s spin, you’d end up on the other side of the planet, most likely in the middle of an ocean. Then, you have to factor in our revolutions around the Sun. If you go back one week, the whole planet will be occupying a completely different part of the solar system, and you’d emerge into the vacuum of space.”

“Yes, but..”

“Then, you need to remember that our solar system is also hurtling through space, as is our whole galaxy. Just working out the co-ordinates for exactly where the planet was twenty four hours ago is a mammoth task, and you are trying to go back thirty five years“.

The doctor was looking less and less confident. Shelley sighed.

“I’m sorry. I just don’t think you appreciate how difficult this is. The smallest miscalculation and you’re dead the moment you emerge on the other side. This is why it costs so much, and why it takes so long to configure. Now, I need you to sign this disclaimer. This states that you understand the risks involved, and that TimeCorp takes no responsibility for any miscalculations or problems encountered on the other side. It also says that you understand that this is a one way trip, and you will cease to exist in this timeline. Once on the other side, you will be in an alternative timeline. If and when TimeCorp is established in that timeline, it will hold no records of this transaction and will not be able to help you in any way other than to organise another trip for you as if you were a new customer, which you would be. The TimeCorp in that timeline, provided it exists after any changes you cause, has no connection to this one. It is an alternate timeline in its own universe.”

The doctor took the pen with a shaky hand and scribbled his name on the paper.

“Thank you doctor. Now, if you would like to step into the booth, all that remains is for me to wish you a safe journey, a happy life, and on behalf of everyone at TimeCorp, thank you for your business.”

Once the door was sealed, Shelly pressed the button.

On the other side, Dr Keroth passed out within three seconds of emerging. Just enough time to spot the city of Chicago a few miles below him, and to think one phrase as he hurtled towards it.

“So close.”


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The Barry

Author : Edward Turner III

He was smiling again, the dumb bastard never did anything but smile. We did not return the smile. He was a Barry 4.21, the newest in the line of Barry’s and the most annoying we had met so far. In this day and age though you had to have a robot helper though, life was so hard without it.

Our Barry 3.7 had malfunctioned and this weirdo was what they had sent us.

Marty said, “Look at that goofy looking grin.”

Barry replied, “I do not mean for my grin to be goofy looking. Would you like me to adjust it?” His face shriveled a bit and suddenly all we saw were teeth.

I spoke before anyone else, “Try to look normal Barry, you’ll scare the kids.”

My wife laughed, “You’ll scare all of us.”

A very neutral smile came over him and he looked down at Marty and Annabelle. He said, “I am very sorry, I do not mean to scare the kids.”

Annabelle stepped back and Marty just laughed.

I rubbed my head, “All right Barry, have you downloaded all of the information from the Barry 3.7?”

Barry 4.21 nodded and said, “I have all of the information and have downloaded all patterns and sub-routines which your Barry 3.7 possessed. I hope I can be of service as well as he.”

My wife stared at him like he had fallen from the moon. For years the robotics industry were creating machines that looked more and more human, but with the trouble that the world found itself in when they reached near perfection, the government had outlawed machines which looked too human, and now you could not even customize them the way you wanted, each model had to look just like every other individual from that model.

Sure, there were better looking models, but this was about the best we could afford. I said, “Maybe you shouldn’t smile so much Barry.”

His smile faded but the creepiness remained, and it might have even been a bit worse. I rolled my eyes.

Annabelle said, “So, can you do any tricks? Old Barry was able to do flips and Michael 4 had been able to do magic.”

Barry’s smile returned and he lifted a hand, out of it came a fire ball. I stepped forward, “No Barry, please do not show us tricks that could burn down the house.”

His smile grew and he said, “I am sorry.”

I said, “Why don’t you deactivate for the time being.”

He nodded and said, “Of course sir.” He stood there and closed his eyes and his head bobbed down to his chest. The goofy grin did not disappear.

I looked at my wife, “Do we really need this thing?”

She smiled in a fake imitation of Barry, “Do you want to do the dishes?”

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Author : Bob Newbell

Consciousness returns abruptly. How long was I out? I check my chronometer. It’s been nearly 178 hours. I’m down to nothing but the solar panels for power. It took them that long to collect enough energy to charge the batteries sufficiently to bring me back online.

My hull is covered with a light dusting of carbon dioxide snow. You said you loved snow, John. I know, it’s preposterous for me to talk to you. Your body is on the bridge and the cold is all that’s preventing it from decomposing. But you told me you believe in an afterlife. You said your first words when you set foot on Mars would be to quote Joshua 1:9. “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

I’d mourn for you, John, but I’m afraid sadness is something I can’t afford right now. I’ve inactivated my limbic metaprocessor. Emotion would be a liability under the circumstances.

The radio is barely working but I should be able to upload a message to the Mars Circumpolar Assay Probe when it passes overhead in a few moments. When you knew we were going to crash, you told me that I had to survive even if you didn’t. And I see only one way to do that.

The probe is approaching its optimal position. This may be my only chance.

“Mission control, this is the USS Parnassus! Request assistance! Crashed in Chasma Australe! Can survive but–”

The radio is dead. That was probably the only chance for rescue I had.

John, I hope you’re safe and well in your afterlife. I did what you told me to do: survive. They’d never spend the money and resources to rescue a computer. I think I did a convincing job of generating a look of terror on your face and inflecting despair in your voice. When they find me, I’ll tell them it’s what you would have wanted.

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Welcome Aboard

Author : Chris Limb

Patrons and customers, my name is Azure Gemollua and I’m your chief flight attendant. On behalf of Captain Swaran and the entire crew I would like to welcome you aboard this Paragon Starline scheduled flight to Nu Phonecis.

We are particularly delighted you have chosen to travel with Paragon, especially in the light of the recent press allegations. As a special thank you for your loyalty we would like to offer all of those on board a 50% voucher towards the cost of your next booking.

Shipboard flight time until hyperspace jump will be two hours during which we will accelerate to a maximum speed of point nine nine nine C. Length of the jump will be 45 light years, throughout which all cephalophrenic life forms will experience no conscious thought; any non-cephalophrenic life forms are asked to please make themselves known to the flight attendants in advance of the jump so that complementary mental dampeners can be provided.

Even if you are a regular traveller, we now request your full attention as the flight attendants demonstrate the safety features of this spacecraft.

There are six emergency airlocks on this Hyperbus 997, two at the front, two at the rear and two over the nacelles. Please take a few moments now to locate your nearest airlock; in some cases it may be behind you.

In the event of decompression due to meteor strike, a SmartSuit™ is stowed under your seat. Place it over your head and pull on the red toggle to activate automatic envelopment. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, please secure your own suit before helping them with theirs.

Please surrender control of your body to the SmartSuit™ AI should it become necessary. The SmartSuit™ is equipped with a sub-space distress beacon and a whistle for attracting attention.

In the unlikely event of the spacecraft stopping in hyperspace, please do not be alarmed by anything you may see or hear should you regain consciousness. Just adopt the “nightmare” position, leaning forward with your hands on top of your head, earplugs in place, eyes tightly closed and your elbows against your thighs. Ensure your feet are flat on the floor.

On no account attempt to move or leave the spacecraft. Do not engage hallucinations in conversation, no matter how many times they insist they’re real. Do not under any circumstances agree to let them come with you. Most important of all it is imperative that you do not believe any stories they might tell you about being passengers on a previously compromised vehicle or about the SmartSuit™ AIs mutinying.

At this time, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position, that your zero gravity harness is correctly fastened and that any portable electronic devices are switched off or set to ‘spacecraft’ mode until a further announcement is made. In a few moments, the flight attendants will be passing around the cabin to offer you hot or cold drugs with our compliments.

Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight. Thank you.

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Author : Hannah Lackoff

“Do you feel as if time is passing by more quickly?” he said, “As though you’re missing bits and pieces, chunks and change?”

She hadn’t wanted to say anything, thought she was just getting older, that maybe her mind was going, maybe she had a brain tumor like that composer-what was his name?- He woke up one day and he just couldn’t remember all those concertos, all those arias and scales and runs he used to play. Everything that once poured out of his brain and down his fingers now locked up inside him somewhere, the piano a mysterious beast that shuddered in the corner, mocking him.

He sipped his iced tea and waited for her to respond. She didn’t remember him getting up to get a glass. She knew she hadn’t fetched it, but there was another on her side of the table between them, condensation sliding down the sides like snowmelt.

“Maybe I’m just getting old,” he said, and let it linger there between them, between the iced tea appearance.

“No,” she said. The sun slipped down a few centimeters, suddenly. She picked up the tea and sipped it. It was watery.

“Too much ice,” she told him. “What were you saying?”

“There,” he pointed, his finger shadowy and swift, “That dog. It wasn’t there before. Was it?”

She studied the dog with him, medium sized and blondly nondescript, nuzzling its’ nose through the tall grass at the end of the driveway. She couldn’t remember seeing it walk up, and then, all of a sudden, it was gone.

“There,” she said it too, “He’s gone.”

They sat in silence for a moment, or maybe longer.

“Did Hemmy come by today?”

She thought for a while, but couldn’t remember. He couldn’t either. At least they were in it together.

“It’s night,” she said, surprised, when had that happened? “Didn’t we come out here for lunch?”

He gestured to their table, and at first she didn’t know what he meant, but then she saw the tea glasses, long emptied. A fly floated in the last half inch of the one closer to her, dead and bloated.

“We’re slipping,” he said, “This is the end.”

A star flew across the inky sky in front of them, faster than a thought. In a moment, it would be morning.

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