Layover

Author : Dr. Alexanders

Kevin stared upward at the “Arrivals/Departures” sign in the main concourse of the Europa Delta Interplanetary Spaceport. He blinked, rubbed his eyes, and looked again. The information didn’t change, not a single number. It read:

IBSF #452

Europa Delta, Jupiter to Gatwick, U.K., Earth

Scheduled Departure: 18:45, Aug. 23, 2159

Scheduled Arrival: 03:22, Aug. 29, 2159

—DELAYED— 83d 13hr 27min

Glancing around the concourse he saw a customer service desk on the other side of a throng of Brazilian tourists. When they didn’t immediately part for him he simply pushed his way through so that when he finally reached the desk he was followed by strings of what he assumed were Portuguese curses and swear words. A slender, blonde woman wearing the standard spaceport uniform took a second to finish whatever she had been typing and then looked up at him with a false smile.

“And how can I help you today, sir?” Her eyes flicked past him for an instant to the Brazilians who were still shouting at him incomprehensibly.

“I think there has been a mistake… my flight, ummm, here’s my ticket; the board over there says that my flight’s going to be over eighty-three days late.” He started to laugh and then stopped when he realized she wasn’t laughing with him. Instead she looked at her computer and his ticket, typed something and faced him once again.

“I’m sorry, sir, but the board is correct. Here at Icarus Budgetary Space Flights we offer flights at a quarter of the price of other space liners by passing on savings to our customers. One of those savings is reduced fuel costs by taking advantage of optimal flight windows and I am afraid that your flight just isn’t going to make this next window due to spaceport congestion.”

“What!? And the next window isn’t for 83 days? I have a meeting in Prague in two weeks!”

“I am sorry, sir, but you booked a flight at our minimal fuel cost price. There is only a ten day window between arrival and departure and today is the last day in that window. I could book you on our premium flight that leaves tomorrow, though it would cost a little bit more.”

Kevin sighed, “Fine… how much?”

The woman checked her screen again, “An upgrade will cost 1,345 credits.”

“But that’s more than four times what I paid for the flight to begin with! I can’t afford that!”

The woman gave him a sympathetic smile, “I am sorry, sir, but there really is nothing else I could do. Can I give you a voucher for a free night in the spaceport hotel?”

Kevin cursed, violently.

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The Great Pervasor

Author : Phil Jacobsma

The magician known as the Great Pervasor finished his trick with a flourish. As the audience applauded, Anders sat nervously awaiting his cue. He had agreed to be part of the show because he needed the money. He had already missed two car payments, and the bank was threatening to repossess. The magician had offered him $200 to pretend to be an audience volunteer. It would make just one payment, but it would get them off his back for another month.

“For my next illusion, I require a volunteer”, declared the man on the stage. He searched the audience, his eyes finally alighting on Anders. “You, sir” he said, pointing his long black wand, “come down and be a part of the mystery!”

Anders stood, feigning reluctance as the audience applauded their approval. He made his way to the stage, turning to face the bright lights. He noticed he could barely see past the edge of the stage in the glare.

“Now, sir, do not be afraid”, said the Great Pervasor. “There is no danger. I am simply going to make you exit this universe for a short period of time.” He turned toward the audience, grinning. “But I promise I will bring you right back!” Anders heard the audience laughing. Let’s just get this over with, he thought.

The trick went just as Anders had rehearsed it that afternoon. He took a seat in a chair on the left side of the stage. An identical empty chair sat at the right side of the stage. When the magician raised his cloak, a jet of smoke rose from the floor and a trap door opened allowing Anders to drop below the stage. He was to reappear in a moment through another trap door on the other chair.

Anders dropped to the floor, and felt hands on his arms helping him up. He was about to offer his thanks when he gasped in surprise. Holding his arms were two small gray creatures with large black eyes. They appeared to be perfect cliché aliens. Anders wondered if these costumes were part of another of the magician’s tricks. The costumes were amazingly detailed. A third alien walked toward him, holding out a small silver device. Behind this alien, standing under the trap door to the other chair, was a man who looked exactly like Anders! He was even wearing the same clothing as Anders. Just before the charge from the alien weapon hit him, Anders saw his double smile at him and wink.

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Paranoia

Author : Michael “Freeman” Herbaugh

I know he’s been here. I’ve seen the signs and clues of his passing. It feels like ages since I started waiting for him to show himself. Heh – that’s almost funny, thinking about the relativity of time passing and all this time I’ve been working on Interspatial Time and Chronological Mechanics as they relate to the movement of a body. That is to say time travel.

I’ve been struggling since my doctorate to find the break through, that one formula that’s been on the tip of my tongue for these past few months but can’t seem to get out. I keep thinking that he will show up and give it to me, I know he will, it’s just a question of time.

But, I also think that maybe he is just watching me, amused at my plight of going through what he has surely gone through. He probably thinks “Why should I give it to him when I worked so hard to get it myself?” Or, perhaps, he is just waiting for the right moment that matches when he gave it to himself.

I don’t believe that you can really screw up the linear nature of time. If he were to give me the answer before today it would already have happened and I would remember so it’s got to be coming in the future. I know he’s watching, after all I would. Why won’t he just speak up already?

I guess I will just have to persevere in my research so that, when I am ready, I can become him.

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First Contact

Author : Patricia Stewart

“Commander’s Log, Hyper-light mission Alpha-one, Ship’s chronometer, Day 23,: Commander Adelmann reporting. The Tycho Brahe has completed another uneventful day. We are currently 7.1 light years from Earth. All systems are operating in the green. However, earlier today, during routine maintenance, Lieutenant DeHennis experienced a minor injury while attempting…”

Just then, the ship dropped out of warp, and all systems shut down. The entire ship was pitch-black. Even the independent emergency power did not function. However, there was a barely detectable blue haze visible outside the ship. That’s when Commander Adelmann noticed the menacing looking alien spacecraft floating 50 feet beyond the forward viewing ports. The alien ship launched a grappling cable that slammed into the hull. Almost instantly, the main computer came on-line. A few minutes later, a disembodied voice began to speak over the intercom. “Translating protocol initiated…click…please stand by…click…click…State your system of origin and destination.”

Under the circumstances, Commander Adelmann thought it was best to cooperate. “Uh, Earth. I mean Sol. We’re headed to Tau Ceti.”

“Do you know why your ship was deactivated?”

“Uh, because you wanted to make First Contact?”

“Negative. Your ship was flying at warp 1.1 in a non-designated area, your identification transponder is not functioning, and your warp field is not dampened…click…please stand by…click…click…Sir, Sol is in the Sirius Sector, but this ship is not registered. Please state your Sirius Department of Transportation Pilot Identification Number.”

“Identification Number? I don’t think I have one. This is the first manned mission outside of our solar system. I didn’t know…”

“Sir, are you saying that you are unaware that all warp corridors are either radial, at one degree intervals extending from the galactic black hole, or circumferential, at concentric intervals ten parsec apart? Are you also unaware that transponders are needed to identify and track ships in hyperspace?”

“Warp corridors? Transponders?”

“Sir, you cannot warp randomly around the galaxy. There are 14 quintillion spacecraft registered in this quadrant. If you don’t follow the designated corridors at the specified warp limits, you risk a collision with your fellow travelers, especially if you are not transmitting your spatial spherical coordinates. Surely sir,…click…You didn’t think you were the only one out here, did you?”

“Well…”

“In addition, sir…click…by warping through a non-designated area, you have caused damage to the Cetus amino-acid fields. I’m afraid…click…that your ship will have to be impounded. I will…click…activate you life support and communication systems. You will wait here until a tow-craft comes and takes you to Sirius Station. Your ship will be released when it is brought up to code, properly registered, and all fines and damages are paid. Your passengers can book transportation back to…click…Earth. However, you, sir, will have to be detained. The Magistrate…click…will want to talk with you. Since this is your species first offence, you will probably get…click…probation.”

“Probation? But…”

“I’m sorry, sir. If you have any…click…complaints, you’ll have to take it up with the Magistrate. In the future sir, please use only designated warp corridors, and…click…obey all warp limits…click…click…and sir…click…have a nice day…click.”

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Colonists

Author : Dr. Alexanders

The world did not snap back into focus for Jenna, but rather came in dribbles. The first sensation to return was the feeling of the restraining harness digging into her shoulders and pins and needles running through her extremities as the hibernation state wore off. Sound came next, the gentle hum and hiss of air processors and the array of electronic equipment that had been crammed into the capsule and had probably returned to life only hours before the processes designed to bring her out of deep sleep had begun. Vision was the last to return, the muscles controlling her eyelids would not work at first and several hours must have been spent completely conscious but unable to see or move.

During those hours, fear, excitement, and anxiety battled for dominance. Jenna was a part of a colonization mission; one of ten million colonists tightly packed into a dozen long range barges. They had been placed into hibernation as the trip had been scheduled to take more than 2,000 years traveling across the galaxy at a quarter of the speed of light. A small crew would have been awoken once they arrived at their new home. This crew would have confirmed the suitability of the planet’s chemistry and then sterilized the surface from orbit of any microbes that might have developed.

Once the planet was properly prepped, hundreds of thousands of seed capsules would have been crashed into the planet’s surface containing raw organic material, genetically engineered and programmed to evolve rapidly so that after a few thousand years the surface would be covered in a wide variety of native plants and desired animal species from Jenna’s home world. The evolutionary process would cause some slight differences, but it would also allow the species to modify themselves to be able to cope with the slight chemical differences of the planet. During this process the crew would have returned to hibernation. A handful of scientists would be awoken every hundred years or so to check on the evolutionary process. When the desired state had been reached a series of retroviruses would be introduced in order to slow the evolutionary pace to its normal rate and then the homestead pods containing the hibernating colonists would be launched and guided down to their landing sites.

When Jenna finally opened her eyes, she completed the last step of the initial colonization: the introduction of human life to this new planet. She could see that something was terribly wrong. A haze of old smoke drifted through the capsule, kept from her by the apparently still functioning filter on her hibernation capsule. Only the emergency lighting, which emitted a dim red glow, and occasional sparks from the console on the other side of the room enabled her to see that most of the other twenty hibernation capsules had been cracked open and now contained desiccated corpses.

Not everyone else was dead though. She could see into the capsule next to hers where Kieran was struggling with weakened muscles to operate the emergency release on his capsule, and tears were streaming down his face.

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