Author : Ian Rennie
It’s not really time travel. Not how that expression is traditionally meant, anyway.
It has long been a maxim of those involved in my kind of research that you can look back and travel forward, but never the other way round. In a way, everything we know about forensic science is a way of looking into the past with slowly increasing resolution. My work is just another step down that road. A bloody big step, but a step nonetheless.
Every movement leaves a trace. Some leave more of a trace than others, most leave a trace so small as to be beyond invisibility. Theoretically, if you had a completely closed environment, you could infer everything that happened within that environment from an accurate enough look at its current state. In practice, that’s nonsense. The world is much too complex, too many variables need to be accounted for. Plus, once you look at things closely enough, you can’t be entirely sure of exactly where everything is, let alone where it was.
Electromagnetic signals are a lot simpler, comparatively speaking. With enough computing power and enough time, it becomes only really really difficult to figure out what a signal was, rather than impossible.
The Hartnell Array has made it even less difficult than that. I won’t go into details about how it works: every time I try to explain it to the chiefs of staff I can see their eyes glaze over. Instead, I try to talk about what it can do.
With enough time, and enough energy, any signal that was ever broadcast can be recovered.
Obviously, the implications are considerable. I’ve had scientists from every field asking for time on the Hartnell Array once its up and running. Even before it was finished it was booked up for the next decade. However, the British Army paid for it, so the British Army get first use.
Well, second use. Officially we’re testing its capabilities for another two months. Unofficially I’m enjoying the major reason why I agreed to build the thing.
“Everything in order?” I ask Dr Patel. She doesn’t understand my enthusiasm, but she humours me.
“Signal reconstruction is complete. Playback is ready whenever you want.”
I settle into my chair, and hit play. The music starts at once, as does the image, blurrier than I remember from my childhood yet no less magical. In awed silence I become the first person in more than half a century to see these images.
Recovering television isn’t difficult compared to some things. There were so many broadcasts at such a strength that you can pick and choose. The only real decision was what to recover first, and for me there was no question.
106 lost episodes, of which I was now watching the nineteenth. We were getting them at a rate of four a day. We’d have every one within the month. I sent the pristine recordings to the BBC within the day, but that first viewing was mine alone.
Dr Patel walks in as the episode finishes and smiles indulgently. She never liked the show, but I think she’s happy that I’m happy.
“Everything in order?” she says, handing my words back to me.
“Perfect.” I say “I think we should go after The Daleks’ Master Plan next.”
Author : Tris Smith
She sat down on the bench, overlooking the local park. She and James used to meet here. It seemed a fitting place to say goodbye. After the operation, she might never come here again. Worse, she might never want to come here again.
At 13, it had been minor. A doctor had suggested she try self harming, and that was it. With modern technology the scars weren?t a problem, and for some people it worked really well.
By 15, she was having weekly online therapy. The AI was great, but somehow it just never worked. CBT just wasn’t her cup of tea. Eventually, they gave her one-to-ones with a specialist. No matter what memories they removed, nothing seemed to help.
The final step had been to test her out in a few different virtual realities, to see if she could be happy. Apparently she couldn’t. After that it had been official. They said she was mentally defective. That no amount of talking or support could help. They suggested drugs or surgery.
She couldn’t stand the drugs. The weight gain, the constant tiredness, the knowledge they were targeting everything in her brain. The systems which worked, and the systems which didn’t. Gradually changing and modifying all of them, building up all kinds of long-term side-effects.
James sat down beside her, taking her hand. “You don’t have to do this” he said.
“Why?” he said.
“I can’t do it. I can’t keep going.”
“I know” he said.
“I might not change that much. Some people don’t.”
“Most do” he said.
“Jenny” he said “Don’t do this. I can’t lose you Jenny. We can find another way.”
“No James, we can’t.”
“It’s nonsense Jenny. Mental deficiency is nonsense. The brain’s still too mysterious for us. Even doctors don’t understand it” he said.
“If I killed myself tomorrow, you’d lose me. This way we have a chance.”
“Goodbye Jenny” he said, standing to leave. James walked away.
“Goodbye Jenny” she said, smiling slightly.
Author : Julia Reynolds
My darling Lord Kraytor,
I’m so sorry. You know I would never leave you; you are my love, my life, my everything. I long to feel your tentacles wrapped around my hips, to kiss your face parts, and feel the delicious sting of your mandibles when you honor me by drinking my filthy human blood.
The Resistance has taken me against my will. I’m aboard one of their dirty Earther ships somewhere in the asteroid belts. Oh, if I could only find a way to call out to you so that you could come and rescue me.
This ship is full of stinking monkeys, humans who all wear clothing even though they know that you and your Overlord have expressly forbidden it.
I’m ashamed that I have been wearing clothes too, because when I try to undress they always stop me. I must confess also that my hair has all grown back, my love, although I know you prefer me bald. When I try to pluck it out they bind my hands. I’m so tired of fighting them, I wish Your Greatness were here to destroy them for their heresy.
They’ve informed me that I’ve been brainwashed by the pheromones in your saliva, that your surgeons have altered my body and mind so that I could provide blood for you.
They say that I am your slave, but we both know the truth. I am your lover, now and for always. I miss everything about you, the smell of your mucal discharges, the rattle of your mating barks, and especially the rasp of your undercarriage. I want only to kneel before you again, my dearest.
They have encouraged me to write this letter as part of my “therapy”, although of course they’ll never deliver it. They say they want to “de-program” me. Nonsense. No heart is more loyal, no love is more pure than my devotion to you, my gallant master.
I hope that when my captors read this they will understand the pointlessness of their constant counseling sessions, the operations, the psychiatric drug regimens, and the erasure of your branding tattoos from my breasts and buttocks.
These are all war crimes against me, against us. Worse, they are love crimes, a blasphemous insult to the special bond between us.
Until I see you again, my love, I remain yours, until Death and perhaps even afterwards. I hope for eternity at your feet, and I beg your forgiveness for my absence from your bed and your feeding chamber.
EXPEDITIONARY FORCE SECURITY BULLETIN
A TERRORIST ATTACK AT PLANET 544 HAS KILLED LORD-GOVERNOR KRAYTOR. THE LORD-GOVERNOR RECEIVED INTO HIS CHAMBERS A RECAPTURED INDIGENOUS FEED ANIMAL. THE ANIMAL HAD BEEN A FAVORITE OF THE LORD-GOVERNOR BEFORE IT DISAPPEARED DURING AN UPRISING IN THE CAPITOL CITY FIVE MONTHS AGO. IT HAD BEEN ASSUMED DESTROYED UNTIL DISCOVERED ALIVE IN THE WRECKAGE OF A REBEL CARGO SHIP.
UPON CONTACT WITH THE LORD-GOVERNER, THE ANIMAL ACTIVATED A BOMB THAT HAD BEEN IMPLANTED INSIDE ITS BODY BY AN UNKNOWN INSURGENT FACTION. ACCORDING TO VIDEO FOOTAGE, JUST BEFORE IGNITING THE DEVICE, THE ANIMAL SAID: “My love, forgive me.”
REPORTED BY THE CLAW OF ACTING LORD-GOVERNOR PRYTOR, FOR THE GLORY OF THE HIVE-MOTHER – LONG MAY SHE BREED.
Author : Chris Daly
The dust was unbearable. Dry, grey, clinging powder draped over every surface, clogging the machinery, grinding against gears and wheels. Water refused to wash away the dirt, forming only a cloying mud that was just as abrasive. His hands bled, crisp and chafed. He had no gloves, no protection from the work that consumed his effort.
‘Clean-up’, they called it. He installed the engines that probed the ground, searching for deep, buried water, enough to wash all this filth away. The dust was all that remained of a civilisation that once dwelled here, cities and towns incinerated away. First came the embers, smoke and ash, later the rubble broke down into that dust, surrounding and coating everything. He worked tirelessly, checking gauges, replacing worn cogs, lubricating the gearboxes, as the machine drilled deeper, through asphalt, dirt and bedrock.
He looked up at the brown sky, past the great towers and twisted metal girders, watching the light straining against the permanent cloud cover. One day, he knew, his work could clear that sky. He would clear away the grey blanket smothering his world. Each passing year, fewer and fewer of his kind searched for that dream. Occasionally, a small pocket of moisture would be found, enough to keep some of them going, but so much was trapped in those clouds, refusing to fall, and the rest entombed in aquifers deep under the old lakes, rivers and mountains. Almost every week now one of them fell, sharing their water with the rest. The algae and fungus in the waste pits kept them alive, but it was bare sustenance, not the abundance that the ancestors had enjoyed.
Even with that abundance, they destroyed each other. Now their offspring fought like pack animals, scavengers over what was left around them. He could never understand why the old ones did it; the others told him not to try. ‘Keep drilling’, they said, ‘One day you’ll bring back what once was.’
The machine let out a whine, cable and wire straining, snapping over bare metal. An acrid cloud rose up, the smoke from a burning motor. He coughed, then sat back and sighed, face in his cracked hands. A tear crept into his eye, traced its line down his face, darkening the grey dust he constantly wore. He sat up again, wiped his nose with his tough sleeve. Useless to cry, he told himself, it just wastes the water. He lifted a rusted tool from the floor, set down his rifle, and returned to work.
One day, he thought. One day soon.
Author : Andrew Bale
“Jack! Come in here a minute!”
“All right Mary, what is it?”
“Check this out. I was running down that noise on the comms channel, but it wasn’t noise. Listen.”
Mary touched one of the controls in front of her, and a crackling voice erupted from the starboard communications station.
“…the best friend I ever had, closer than my actual brothers, far better to me than I ever was to him. I spent a hundred nights…”
She turned it off.
“It’s an old radio signal from Sol! It must have mixed with one of the local oscillators and gotten upconverted into our comms band! It has to be a thousand years old!”
“If it was original and that old, we would never have gotten it at all. You have the whole message?”
“Sure, it cycled at least twenty times, that’s why it’s so clear – I was able to stack the repeats and drive the signal above the background. Want a hardcopy?”
“No, just copy it to a thumb, but… there’s a tradition. After you copy it, re-record the message in your own voice. Loop it a hundred times or so, then transmit it on the directionals. Send it back to Earth, and maybe twenty of your other favorite directions. Pick places people might catch it, other than that it doesn’t matter.”
“Okay, what frequency?”
“Same as the original signal – if you send it on the comms channels we’ll get flagged, but no one cares what goes out at radio frequency. Besides, as strange as it may sound, that mixing wasn’t accidental – it’s not in the specs, but these rigs are designed to catch signals like this one.”
“I told you – tradition. Get to it.”
“Jack, why my voice, why not the original?”
“It will be clearer than the one you received. Besides, the voice doesn’t matter, just the message. Meet me in the wardroom when you’re done.”
The wardroom was filled to capacity when Mary finally reached it. The entire comms staff was there, along with most of the older crew and a few others. Jack took the portable drive from her hand and replaced it with a glass of brandy before playing the recording to the crowd. For several minutes, the room was silent save for one scratchy voice, telling of a friend, a brother, a son. When it finally fell into static, Jack raised his glass and cleared his throat.
“Friends, tonight we heard a voice in the dark. The speaker is forgotten, but the message goes on, and we honor it. Raise a glass tonight to Jeremy Coonradt. He is not dead while his name is still spoken. To Jeremy, and to those he left behind.”