Second Chances, Inc.

Author : Marc Paige

Disclaimer and Waiver of Responsibility:

Second Chances, Inc. will make one (1) small change to one’s personal timeline and are not liable for any damages or loss (including loss of life) as a result of the altered timeline. No financial alterations. Any fraudulent change will be immediately reversed. Only you will be aware that the change has occurred. No refunds.

Part of the process involves an RPA interview (regression, prognostication analysis.) Two hours into it, the team had worked out the event that needed to be altered.

The time ripple was effective and accurate. As advertised, only I was aware of the change. My “big” mistake never happened.

I guess I don’t know what I really expected. I mean, people never really learn from their mistakes do they. Instead of blaming my past self for a lapse in judgment, I should have learned from it and moved on. But no! I couldn’t do that. They made it too easy.

“Wish you hadn’t bought that car? Answered the phone that fateful night? Ate that bad piece of fish? At Second Chances, Inc. we can help! Our team of dedicated professionals will erase that bad decision with pinpoint accuracy. Call now for an estimate, financing available.”

That’s how they get you. Bastards.

During the interview, I told them “if only I hadn’t taken that first puff…” That was it. They calculated the right spot in my timeline that let me sneak that first smoke and setup the machine.

“Ready?” The tech didn’t really wait for an answer and touched the screen.

For a moment, my body felt “wrong”.

After the ripple, the cancer was gone… well, never happened I guess.

As I got up to leave, I reached in my jacket pocket for the fried cherry pie the ripple had placed there.

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Oasis

Author : TJMoore

Captain Thomas Crane squinted into the bright sunlight as he swirled his brandy absentmindedly around in the gold rimmed crystal snifter cradled loosely in his hand. A mahogany skinned attendant wearing only a smile popped another grape into his mouth. The plump fruit burst between his teeth and a little juice trickled from the corner of his mouth and down his chin. The attendant gently blotted it up with a wisp of soft silk and offered him another grape.

In the distance, an osprey cried as it sliced across the deep blue water and snagged a tasty fish in its gleaming talons. The gentle breeze smelled of salt water and tropical flowers as it brushed across his sun bronzed face. Breakers thundered and crashed on a far off beach adding a hint of drama to the afternoon quiet.

The beautiful attendant rose and cleared the remains of his filet minion from the white wicker table. As she swayed across the deck she smiled back at him and said “I hope you enjoyed your lunch”. Captain Crane sighed and inhaled the heady vapor rising from the warm brandy, then downed the last of it in a single swallow.

Reaching behind his head, he felt for the interface plug and pulled it from the socket implanted there. The tropical paradise was obliterated as dark grey rock and dusty mine air assaulted his senses like marauders in the night.

Tom stood and tossed the flavored drink bladder and textured yeast wrapper into the recycler. Wiping his hands on his grimy coveralls, he grabbed his drill and trudged down the dark wet passage back to work.

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Frame of Reference

Author : J. S. Kachelries

“Well, what do you think?” asked my roommate, with a grin that appeared to cover almost half of his disheveled face.

“About what, Jim?” I replied, while pretending to ignore the large polished chrome sphere sitting between us, in the middle of our kitchen table.

“Come on, Isaac. What do you think of my doctorate project, The Graviton Shield?”

“It looks a metal basketball to me. What’s it supposed to do?”

“Besides win me a Noble Prize? Well, when I activate it, it will become unaffected by gravitational fields.”

“You mean it will float?”

He laughed. “Of course not, you idiot. You Liberal Arts majors really crack me up. It still has inertia. You know…Newton’s first law. It must continue to move in a strait line in whatever direction it was moving when I threw the switch. Do you know what direction that will be? Hell, of course you don’t. Look, the Earth rotates in 24 hours. At our latitude, we’re moving at about 700 miles per hour. Without Earth’s gravity holding it down, the GS Ball will drift upward toward the west. He pointed toward the top of the refrigerator. In addition, the Earth also orbits around the sun. Let’s see, that’s 587,000,000 miles in 365.25 days. That’s 67,000 miles per hour. At this time of day, the Ball will continue to move toward Epsilon Tau.” He pointed toward the window above the sink. “Of course, we’re also revolving around the center of the Milky Way. Let’s see…that’s…”

“OK, OK, I get it. Just tell me where to stand, so it won’t hit me if it actually moves.”

“Oh, you’re fine right where you are. The battery will only last about 30 seconds. Just long enough to prove it works.” He reached over and flipped the toggle switch on the top of the Ball. But the Ball didn’t move. Regardless, Jim jumped up and began to dance around the kitchen, cheering and shouting “Oh yea, oh yea, I knew it. Take that bitch!”

“Whoa, Jim. Calm down. It didn’t work.”

“Don’t you guys take any science classes? Of course it worked. Had everybody, including my ex-girlfriend, been correct, that Ball should have exited the kitchen, stage right. But it didn’t. Don’t you see what that means? Duh, I guess I’ll have to explain that to you too. Mary Jane, my ex, said I was a self centered, egotistical, narcissistic bastard, who thought the universe revolved around him…..What, you still don’t understand? The Ball didn’t move! God, you’re slow. If the center of the universe was really somewhere out there in the cosmos, we’d have a hole in kitchen wall. Therefore, I must be the center of the universe. Everything does revolve around me. I’ve got to send her an IM.” He reached under the table and brought out his laptop.

I sat there motionless while I tried to decide if I should call the psychotic helpline, or just get up and run like hell. That’s when I noticed that the Ball was moving very slowly to my left. Although I hadn’t noticed until now, it had actually moved about a foot since Jim had flipped the switch, right down the center of the table. As I carefully watched its path, it began to curve away from me as its battery began to die. Huh, I thought, it looks like it’s trying to make a big circle, a little bigger than a hula-hoop, with Jim smack dab in the middle. “Well, I’ll be damned!”

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Intervention

Author : Joshua Reynolds

“This isn’t good for you.” The words were flat. Colorless. No echoing thoughts behind them, no chorus of agreement, disagreement, no shared community opinion.

Just the words.

Stanley smiled and nodded. It felt good to nod. To use physical muscles as opposed to metaphysical. Felt right. Felt real. And reality was what he wanted. What he craved. Harsh, bland reality. To feel, to touch, to taste what was really there.

It was the whole reason he’d pulled the plug. His plug. His fingers touched the scabby hole in the side of his temple where the aether-jack had been implanted when he was six. So he could join the World-Wide Web, be a part of the community and share the world. In the twenty years since, he’d come to one inescapable conclusion.

He was not a fan of sharing.

“Are you listening to me? I can’t tell if you’re listening to me or not.” Sarah said, tapping the words into her keypad even as they fled her lips. Stanley sighed.

“Of course you can’t tell. You aren’t looking at me.”

“I am so. If you’d just put your plug back in I could see you fine.” She typed. Her eyes remained glued to the flat screen before her. They were green. He leaned across the table and examined them. He hadn’t realized. You only got so much from emoticons, even these days.

“Do you know what color my eyes are?” He asked her, looking at her and not her screen. Her face wrinkled in confusion and her fingers hesitated on the keyboard. But she still didn’t look at him. How long had they been married? Three years? Two? Had she ever looked at him?

“What does that matter? Why are you doing this? We only want what’s best for you.”

Ah. The peanut gallery is heard from, Stanley thought. An ambush sprung. He stood and twisted her screen around to face him. Several dozen avatars floated in orderly columns all adding their two-cents to the debate. As per usual. Intervention by forum. Words spilled across the screen in a deluge of emoticons and parentheses backslash frowny faces. It looked like everyone was here. Friends. Family. Why there was Pastor Milkes. All begging for him to give it up. To give up his addiction. Give up the harsh realm. Stanley blinked at the outpouring of love and caring. He remembered what it was like in there. Where everyone knew your name. Knew everything about you.

Out here it was so quiet.

So quiet.

Out here, no one knew anything about you. Or what you thought.

He liked it that way.

He tapped the screen and Sarah jumped in her seat. Avatars blinked and flashed and words in pastel colors were vomited across the screen. He bent down and kissed Sarah on the top of her head. His fingers brushed the cord trailing from her temple.

With a twist of his fingers he pulled it out.

Turnabout was fair play after all.

One intervention was as good as another.

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Through the Looking Glass

Author : Chris Ferguson & Lucas Atkinson

Malcovitch polished the lens pensively, knowing it was ridiculous. But he was a traditionalist, and even if it would be computers looking, not him, image decoders, descramblers, adjusters, effectors and compensators it was comforting to see it with his own eyes. He fitted it in place, tightened the screws the knobs carefully and peered through. There it was, the dark speck of the wormhole, as everyone had seen it for three and a half hundred years, scientists infuriated by artifacts that exhibited slightly different values of pi, geometry no longer behaving.

He sighed, leaned back, and booted up the machines that would carefully freeze the station’s real telescope to near-absolute zero temperatures. He sipped his coffee, listening to the machines groan beneath him. A moment later he flicked on another line of switches, one by one. The screen in front of him flashed blue, then twisted into a field of static. Even this behemoth of a telescope could not peer into the heart of the wormhole. He sighed, once more, then engaged one last program. This has to work, he thought. The program has been checked a hundred times now. There were only days before the Schrodinger’s Apocalypse Cult would find the legal leverage to shut down the station completely.

The lights flickered and the surface of his coffee rippled. Slowly, the screen hovering over the console shuddered and drew an image. There he was, on the screen. He was staring at his own back, he thought, except – he turned around. Nothing there. He turned back to the screen. The Station shuddered again, harder. He stared again. It was him – or – was his hair that dark? That long? And there was something wrong about where the walls met the floor, something too angular – Oh, he, thought, quietly, Damn.

~

“Doctor Malcovitch? Is everything all right?”

“Yes, John. It was very strange, though, for a moment.” She leaned back, sipped her tea, and petted the black cat that slept in its bed on the console. “It was like looking in a mirror, seeing yourself again and again and again.”

“Another failure?”

“Yes,” She sighed. “Check the program again. We don’t have much time.”

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