The Portal

Author : J. S. Kachelries

“Well, Tom, what do you think?”

“Joe, if you made me hike 50 miles through the jungle, climb a freakin’ 10,000 foot mountain, and craw through a cave for half a mile on my hands and knees, just so you could show me another cave…” Tom pointed a threatening finger at Joe’s chest, “Teri Hatcher had better be in there, or one of us isn’t going home.”

“Calm down,” Joe said with a reassuring smile, “this is better than Teri Hatcher. And, that’s not another cave, it’s a doorway. See all that writing above the opening. That’s ancient Greek. I looked it up on the internet, that phrase at the very top translates to ‘The Portal to VakEishn’.”

“VakEishn? What’s that? And why is it so dark in there? My flashlight doesn’t seem to brighten the inside.”

“First of all, it’s ‘where’s that,’ and it’s not really dark. There’s some kind of energy barrier. I don’t know what’s on the other side, but I plan to find out.” He reached into his backpack and pulled out two camcorders attached to each other with a wire wrapped in aluminum foil. He turned on one camera and gently tossed it through the portal. It disappeared. As he turned on the power to the second camcorder, he said, “I’m hoping the aluminum shielding will allow the signal to pass back.” He flipped open the video display and gazed in astonishment at a sandy tropical beach. But it wasn’t like any beach he’d ever seen. The sky was pink, and the ocean was almost orange. “Yes,” he said enthusiastically. “This is better than I had hoped. I think this is a portal to another planet.” He stepped closer to the portal. “And, I plan to go there.”

“What! Are you nuts? If that is another planet,” conceded Tom, “there may not be oxygen there. It might be minus 300 degrees, that ‘ocean’ could be liquid methane.”

“Now you’re being crazy. Why would an advanced civilization build a portal to a place where they couldn’t breathe the air, or tolerate the temperatures? I’m going. You can watch through the camcorder. I’ll let you know if I need anything. But whatever you do, don’t follow me.” He tossed Tom the camcorder, and stepped through the portal.

Tom quickly looked down at the video display. He saw Joe’s calves come into view as he jogged toward the crashing waves. Minutes later, Joe was performing Olympian-type feats; jumping vertically six to eight feet high. Tom could hear Joe laughing and shouting like a child in an amusement park. Tom stood open mouthed, staring at the display. Apparently, the portal did go to another planet, one with much lower gravity than Earth. And it was habitable. The temptation to pass through the portal was unbearable.

As Joe bunny hopped back toward the camcorder, Tom suddenly appeared. Surprised, Joe tripped and slowly tumbled face first into the sand. He looked up at Tom and screamed, “Nooo! What are you doing here? I told you to stay on the other side. I needed you to supply me until I could find the return portal. Oh God, I forgot to tell you what the rest of the Greek writing meant. It said, ‘Caution. Enter only, not an exit’.”

Tom turned back toward the portal. But all he could see were miles and miles of sand dunes.

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Author : JTHeyman

My cell door opened, revealing a woman dressed all in grey. I was dead. With an ordinary interrogator/judge, I would have had a chance. Not with one of the Grey Ladies.

“United States Time Court Interrogation/Trial 66017002,” she said in a voice that was about as close to mechanical as a human could get. Her optical implants scanned me on every frequency from deep infrared up to x-ray. Her audio receptors would catch every decibel. Scans were transmitted to medical computers for instant analysis. Lying was not an option.

In that flat voice, the Grey Lady said, “First charge: one count, unlawful use of timeslip equipment. Plea?”

“Guilty,” I said. That was just a misdemeanor.

“Sentence: one year, stasis.”

I nodded. A year in stasis was easy. Unfortunately….

“Second charge: one count, disruption of timeline. Plea?”

That one, on the other hand, carried a death sentence. “Guilty,” I admitted sadly.

“Felony or misdemeanor?”

I was confused. Since when was screwing with the timeline a misdemeanor? “I … don’t understand.”

“Pursuant to Temporal Law 2051-C-9, disruption of timeline is a felony if resultant temporal shockwave would reset current timespace without intervention. Amendment 507 specifies that if disruption results in an action that is consistent with recorded history, said offense is reduced to misdemeanor, penalties appropriate to reduced charge. Felony or misdemeanor?”

“I don’t know,” I said, suddenly realizing that if the law had changed, I might get out of this alive.

“Testify: events of recent timeline incursion.”

“It was a standard job,” I said. “Timeslip into the past. Grab something ordinary that no one would miss. Timeslip out again. No one gets hurt.”

“Testify: nature of disruption.”

“It was like this. My clients,” I began.

“The Association for the Re-Creation of Chivalry,” the Grey Lady interjected. “ARCC. Continue.”

“ARCC. Right. You see, these guys in ARCC said they were going to re-create a jousting tournament. They paid me to go back and get something authentic to give the participants a thrill. They said no one would miss a cask of genuine medieval horseshoe nails. Anyway, I found the nails and gave a bushel of oranges to the guy who had them. They were seedless oranges,” I added quickly. “There’s no way he could have planted them.”

“Timespace coordinates?”

“Um … eleventh century, France, somewhere on the northern coast.”

The Grey Lady paused, accessing the relevant historical data. “Analysis complete. Second charge: one count, disruption of timeline, misdemeanor. Sentence: five years, stasis.”

I breathed a sigh of relief but I couldn’t stop myself from asking, “Uh, by the way … how could a couple of nails disrupt the timeline?”

The Grey Lady looked at me and then said, “The displaced cask of nails was intended for the cavalry of William of Normandy. Historical records confirm: unable to field his full cavalry, he was defeated at the Hastings, England, 1066. Interrogation/Trial 66017002 complete. The Time Court of His Imperial Majesty Harold XXVI is adjourned.”

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The Wilderness

Author : Duncan Shields

There’s always going to be a few things I can’t get used to here. The green sky, for instance, and the fact that the animals are mimics. All of the animals have the same abilities as Earth parrots, no matter what they look like. Every animal that comes up to me has a simple vocabulary.

I’d say I feel like Dr. Doolittle but I don’t. They don’t understand anything I say back except for rudimentary commands after they’ve been trained. Just like dogs. I’ve learned not to swear when I tell them to get away from me. All it does it get them to say swear words to me when they come back later to bother me again. For such a wordy wilderness, it’s still a pretty lonely place.

At least for me. I’m still camped out by the ship. The younger ones went into the woods first in a Lord of the Flies moment of instant rebellion. Like the Lost Boys from Peter Pan, they paint their faces and try to stay young forever. The young adults went next to take care of them. They have huts that protect them from the weather and they’ve identified which of the local animals and plants are poisonous. It’s like a primitive civilization. It’s like Gilligan’s Island.

I was the oldest one on the ship. I’m the only one that hasn’t given up hope of a rescue. With everyone else off in the jungle, the ship’s rations will last me for years.

I walk in a perimeter circle around the ship’s landing crater underneath the green sky and watch the animals sniff the burnt patches of ground where the ship landed. I saw something that looked like a bright green bear once. Blue three legged dog-things eat the crackers I sometimes throw at them. They’re scared of the ship’s smell, though, and rarely come close. It’s only the young ones that might wake me up by licking a hand before getting scolded by their parents later.

The survivors from the ship who have gone native in the woods think it’s hilarious to teach the animals my name.

The animals bark my name, hiss my name, whine my name, and shout my name all the time when they’re close to my ship. Sometimes this makes me scream and when this happens, I can hear the forest tittering in a very human way.

I’m not sure how long I’m going to last. I think I’ll probably change out of my ripped and soiled earth-suit into a loincloth soon enough. Until I do, though, I’m going to cling to memories of Earth as long as I can. I’m going to hold onto my humanity and pretend that technical terms aren’t sliding away from me.

“Jason!” shouts a pink hyena-looking thing to my left with too many legs. I almost find it comforting. It won’t be long now.

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Alternate 7453DO

Author : Joshua Reynolds

Jon Stack # 1 crept towards himself, fairly panting with eagerness. He was hungry again. So hungry. Reality stretched and rippled around him as he approached his doppelganger. Jon Stack # 59 according to the Prime-Time Organic Advocacy Bureau. It was like looking into a mirror.

Jon Stack # 1 hated mirrors. But he loved the taste of years. Especially when they were his.

He leapt out of the alleyway, fingers hooked like claws, too-wide mouth stretched as wide as his transgenic altered jaw structure would allow, serrated teeth sliding out of gum-sheaths. Jon Stack # 59 whirled and screamed, eyes bugging out in sudden terror. He made to run but too late. Too late.

Or it would have been, had not Censor Wight chosen to step out from where he’d been hiding between the next two seconds and ram the variable-field gravitational manipulation rod down into Stack’s lower back. Stack # 1 screamed as the weapon turned his fifth and sixth vertebrae to powder under the sudden impact of two tons of pressure. He flopped to the ground, screeching like a cat. Wight spun the impact weapon in his gloved hands and smirked as he looked down at Stack’s writhing form. Stack # 59 took advantage of the opportunity and took to his heels. Wight watched him go and then turned his attention back to his prey.

“Hello Jon. It’s been a good while. You’ve been a very naughty little chronophage. For shame.”

Stack hissed and his body undulated as he spent a few stored years to repair his spine. Wight brought the gm rod down again, putting a crater in the street as Stack rolled aside, moving faster than the eye could follow. Wight blinked, his internal enhancements switching his visual capabilities into several different spectrums until he settled on the correct one. Stack reappeared suddenly, his fist smashing against Wight’s skull. The Censor staggered back and swung his weapon blindly. Stack screeched as his arm was pulped into a liquid mass and he was sent sprawling.

Before he could get to his feet, Wight brought the rod down on Stack’s skull, flattening it. Stack dropped bonelessly. Wight looked down at him for a moment, then kicked him hard in the ribs. Stack groaned, despite the immense damage to his skull.

Wight swung the gm rod up onto his shoulder and sighed. Still alive of course. Chronophages were notoriously hard to kill. They battened on years and could spend them freely to repair their bodies down to the last molecule. He looked down at Stack again and grinned.

“Time heals all wounds, eh Jon?”

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Welcome newborn

Author : Thomas H Edwards

A shape floats silhouetted against the background of the nearby gas giant. I can make out four limbs and one smaller structure atop the central structure, a light blinked out from it, red and small. It meant something. A moment’s concentration while the message repeats itself.

“Welcome newborn”

“Hello, who are you?” it blurts out, from a faculty I don’t understand.

“I am Jonathan, I call myself a human.” The message light blinked again, the human is getting closer, riding on small jets of gas. I can calculate its course with a skill I have somehow innately mastered, it is heading for me.

“I want to be your friend and I am here to help” the human is close now; I can magnify my view of him it arrives at a large structure suspended in blackness, through an opening it steps.

“Where have you gone?” I proclaim in all the faculties I can muster.

“That was impressive, you must have broadcasted on every channel nearly scrambled some of my processors.” It broadcasted “I am inside now, I should be able to activate everything now… where is it… damn nanomachines… can’t follow simple instructions…” the creature mumbled, it carried on like this for a while and I merely watched the giant planet. More than once I could have sworn I saw a large creature surface from the noxious gasses. Suddenly I became aware, more than before, before I was stunted. I felt my place in this system to a few metres; I felt the gravitational presence of the gas giant, its many moons, small asteroids, curious revolving objects and mysterious bodies traveling in unnatural ways. If I concentrated harder I knew their names, Jupiter, Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, Leda, Himalia, Huxley’s paradise, Io observatory, USS Saratoga, Ambulance chaser.

I was aware of another space, a smaller space, a space of different physics. Not cold hard vacuum, not dictated by the forces of interstellar bodies, and not cold and dark but warm and welcoming. And there, there’s the human! In a silvery suit, a…a space suit but without his helmet. From his structure, long and slender, I can tell he is a Jovian, used to the lax gravity of Io or Europa and from his face I can tell he is a male.

“Hello newborn, it is good to meet you. Is there anything you want answered?” He smiles at me.

“As far as I can tell I appear to be a space ship… what kind? My technical files tell me there are many; my historical files tell me I could have many enemies and only a very short lifespan.”

“Well out here we call them boats! But I can tell you that you were seeded from an asteroid three years ago using plans I stole and fabricated, you are only very recently completed.” Jonathan is reeling off facts and figures, I listen and then suddenly he reels around a glint in his eyes “want to see yourself?”

“I think so” It is all I can say.

“I’m afraid I can’t find a mirror big enough” he slaps his thigh and then jumps into chair in front of a console and rattles off a few commands, I can feel them go through my interface. He is contacting a satellite “watch feed seven!”

The feed patches in, it shows a silver egg. It zooms in I can now see ports, exhausts, labels and sunlight glinting off undamaged armour. At the narrow end I see maser ports and at the wide end a fusion torch.

“Beautiful aren’t you?”

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