Time Enough for a Wedding

Author : Grady Hendrix

…and he suddenly wakes up with a start. The light was all wrong, a brief nap shouldn’t have taken this – 5:45! Oh, god. Oh, no. Why hadn’t his alarm clock gone off? Eric squeezed his forehead in his hands and made a high-pitched sound: he had slept through his own wedding. This is the kind of thing that happens when you have a secret laboratory underneath your house and you muck about with time travel.

“I’ll fix it,” he said out loud. “I’ll fix it.”

He leapt up and adjusted the time vest for just one more trip. He cinched the straps and hit the button and he was instantly unmoored in the Chronoverse, suddenly reduced to a unique set of free floating personality traits rushing backwards to…

Just a few hours ago! He looked at himself sleeping at his desk, head nestled in the crook of his elbow. He’d done it! He carefully set the alarm on his clock and got ready for his return trip. Is that what he looked like from behind? Well he certainly needed to shave the back of his neck more often. Then he was looking down the barrel of a gun. Several guns, in fact. Several guns being held by uniformed strangers.

“Come with us, Professor Tenser,” one of them said. “We’ll make this easy on you.”

“Who are you people?”

“Copyright Enforcement. You invented time travel, but we used your invention to travel back in time and invent it before you. You’re wearing a bootleg vest so we’re going to have to kill you.”

“You can’t kill me for a copyright violation.”

“Sure we can. Our lawyers went back and put it in the Constitution.”

Eric panicked and slapped the button on his vest, flinging himself randomly into time. The Copyright Cops followed. Down the corridors of history they ran: Medieval, Mesozoic, Middle Reformation, Great Awakening. Hiding behind Thomas Becket’s robes, crouching in a Catholic hiding hole, squatting behind the battlements of a castle. Eric was good at running but then he thought, “What if…?” and he set a different path.

Now waiting on the pink shores of a prehistoric sea, Coelacanths mating merrily in the deep, he sees a tiny fish, gills straining, taking its first crawl up onto land, chased by an angry trilobite. Eric had worked this problem out, spending almost a year in a looped millisecond so that no time at all had passed. He had pinpointed this little Rhipidistia as the earliest ancestor of the Copyright Cops who were on his tail. He smushed it with a rolled up magazine.

“There,” he said. “Now to get back to my wedding.”

Yanked into the present, he’s back in his lab, exhausted after his chase through time, but exhilarated as well. He sits at his workbench to get ready for the wedding but first, just a little nap. He puts his head down on his arms, he falls soundly asleep…

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The Forsaken

Author : Debbie Mac Rory

We have no choice, they said. We have to leave. We don’t know where we can go, or even if we can survive out there, but we can’t live here any longer. But there isn’t enough room here for all of us.

And then it became clear that the “we” and the “us” indicated in the news broadcasts, referred only to the healthy, the fertile, the educated among our peoples. Those who had been born without genetic abnormalities or physiological conditions which science should have long since cured.

The selection process was as short as the world government was able to make it, but it still stretched into months. Riots broke out worldwide, incited by those terrified of being left behind and those made bitter by tests results that rejected their chance of passage, even though they considered themselves healthy.

Paranoia took its place in the proceedings and only those who had a place ensured were allowed to prepare and load the ships. I suppose they believed that we, abandoned as we were, would yet try to poison the food, or infect their ventilation systems with some pathogenic substance. I know there were some that would have done so, and some that tried through the layers of security that surrounded the airbases. Most of them lost their lives on the lasers of the defensive grid.

When the ships had at last completed preparations, few were at full capacity. The medical AIs, calling on all the worlds collected knowledge, rejected all children under 12 in the belief that the exposure of such young bodies to the unshielded radiation outside the atmosphere would render them infertile, and useless as colony members. Even allowing for the families who opted to stay together on a now barren planet, or the parents who kissed their children goodbye, leaving them with crippled aunts or grandfathers too old to qualify, the numbers were far fewer than expected.

Most of the ships have left now, but the security grid around the airfields is still active. The children who were left come here most days to throw rocks against the fences, and watch the lasers turn them to dust. I still come to watch the last of the ships, assisting those others who try to hack into the abandoned bases so we can siphon the remaining power for ourselves.

The little girl with me clings tighter, burying her face in the cloth of my garments as the dust clouds raise from yet another launch. I adjust the gauze around my face with one hand so I can keep watching, while gently stroking the child’s hair with the other, to comfort her.

When finally the rockets flare has faded beyond what I could follow in the brightness of the noon-day sun I take the girls hand and turning, we walk together into the echoing streets.

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Author : TJMoore

The path to the discovery of intelligent non-human life was, for me, a life’s journey. SETI had invested billions in high tech telescopes and antenna arrays, thousands of personnel hours and miles of red tape, without a single positive result. I had done it at the cost of just over five hundred thousand dollars, twenty five years of my own life, my own sweat and tears, my family, my friends, my reputation and my respect. The last two or possibly three items I have since recovered, depending on your definition of “friends”.

It all started with the artifact. I had found an artifact that I believed to be part of a larger artifact that was lost or discarded by prehistoric visitors from another world and time. It ended with my excavation of a site that I had purchased with the proceeds from the sale of my house, my land, my entire estate and personal wealth. The excavation resulted in the discovery of a mechanical devise of unknown origin, composition or purpose. Scientists have analyzed the metal like material and have determined that nothing like it exists in the world as we know it and the material has yet to be reproduced by any known process.

The discovery site was the southern edge of a quarry where decorative marble was occasionally mined for its unusual color, transparency and high concentration of fossils. The fossils were so numerous that the strength of the stone was unacceptable for most building materials so the quarry had been dormant for many years. I had little trouble purchasing it.

I had great trouble finding it. It took years of searching through paper invoices and inventories, work schedules, logs and shipping documents. The final link was actually an artist who had ordered some slab marble for a pedestal he was commissioned to build at a museum. He had personally scouted out the stone to be cut from the quarry, deliberately choosing the brittle stone for its interesting fossils. Unfortunately, the museum changed the color scheme of the atrium and the stone was sold to a tile company to be cut into floor tiles. The tiles sat in a warehouse for several years until it was sold at auction to a wholesaler who shipped it to another warehouse where it sat for another few years. When the wholesaler went out of business, it was sold, again at auction, to a distributor who sold it to a contractor whose business was building and remodeling for small businesses. The contractor had used the tile in the restrooms of a new office building.

So we arrive at the beginning of the journey where I, sitting on the bathroom throne, caught a glimpse of something unnatural beneath the polished surface of the floor tile beneath me. It was a tiny spring with a tiny fossil passing through the coils. A spring deposited in the ancient muck when the now fossilized shellfish was still alive. A spring made millions of years before man.

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Author : Viktor Kuprin

Any starship could request a flyby. Popik received them all the time from the Customs Patrols and the Space Force when they needed to eyeball our ship. If they wanted a bribe that day, they’d come aboard Popik’s old Mod One. He would shake hands with the thug-in-charge and discretely pass some rubles or gold kopeks he’d gotten from here and there.

That’s what you had to do if you were a free trader like Popik, especially if you occasionally hauled illicit cargoes on the side like bootleg vodka or tobacco. The Americans treated tobacco like it was some kind of fission-grade plutonium. But the colonists on the Fringe Worlds gladly paid for it sight unseen.

Maybe Popik was curious to see the ship or, I suspect, he just wanted to give me a surprise. He keyed up the code for a flyby request, transmitted it, and to his surprise the reply came back giving the okay. Back then, before the wars with the Helgrammites and the others, there weren’t so many alien starships in human space. Not like now.

When he called me over the comm, I was playing with dolls in my cabin. I raced to the cramped control center, dragging my favorite teddy bear behind.

“Sit down, Vika, and watch the big televisor,” Popik said. “We’re going to see something special.”

“Is it Poppa or Momma calling? Are they coming?” I asked.

“Not this time, my heart,” Popik replied. “We’re going to see a Tsoor ship, an alien ship. We’ll fly past it in a few seconds. Watch.”

“Da, Popik.” I should have known it wasn’t my parents. Poppa was on duty aboard a warship somewhere in deep space. Momma was away, too, always working in some company office on Getamech. So, when I wasn’t in school, I got to travel with Popik and live in his asteroid domik between our trips to the stars.

A strangely-shaped orb appeared on the televisor screen and began to grow in size. Popik grinned and fired the retros, slowing our approach.

“It’s a Class-4 Tsoor starship. They call it a ‘Porpita,'” he explained.

“That’s a funny name, Popik!” I bounced and giggled, hugging my teddy bear.

The Tsoor ship was a cluster of four huge connected spheres glowing bluish green. Bars of brilliant violet light circled the globes’ equators and vertical axes. I saw no portholes, no windows, no one looking back at us. To me it looked like some giant, magical New Year’s tree ornament.

“Can we flash our lights for them, Popik?” I asked.

He shook his head. “We probably shouldn’t, my heart. The aliens might not know what to make of it.”

Then the beautiful Tsoor starship receded into the distance and was gone.

I watched and re-watched the video Popik had made of the flyby. And all these many years later, I still have that recording. Just a few seconds long, but it takes me back to those happiest of times, back to my dear grandfather.

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Time Assassin

Author : Daniel Rosenblum

“This wasn’t what I expected the past to be like.”

I looked around warily, absorbing the unfamiliar sights. I was alone in a rotund, palatial chamber, standing at the center beneath a sweeping ceiling supported by ornate columns. Yellow shafts of early-morning sunlight penetrated the room’s few windows, casting soft, dramatic shadows across the echoing structure.

I checked my watch. 4:28 AM. It was time to commit the grandest act of goodness possible.

Behind the mahogany doors ahead slept a powerful, perverted man. In two months, his distorted thoughts and nefarious deeds will irreparably damage the future of civilization. Three hundred years later, in my natural time, we still felt the shockwaves of destruction emanating from this man’s atrocities.

Now I held the power to end it all before it ever began.

I slipped through the doors like an avenging spirit, intent on my purpose. There he slept, so mortal and vulnerable – no more than a collection of bones and muscle. His faint breathing filled the room, amplified in my ears over the intense throbbing of my nervous heart. I removed my weapon from its holster, took steady aim, and…

“For morality,” I murmured angrily, and the deed was done.

I had done it. No one would ever hear of my deed, sing songs in my name, or celebrate a saved future. No, I didn’t require any fanfare – only the knowledge that I had done what’s right.

I returned to my time, looking forward to enjoying a world free from fear and oppression.

“This wasn’t what I expected the future to be like.”

Where there once was a wealth of technology, there was barbarism. Where there used to be a massive city just before the vast horizon, there was black, smoldering rubble. My laboratory was in ashes. My home was in splinters. I could see a small cottage faintly in the distance, starting life anew. At first I could not understand. I had fixed it! But the man’s ideas were greater than his flesh, transcending the material. Someone worse – far worse – had taken his place. The world was destroyed, but I knew what I had to do.

I returned to the past, 4:27 AM, and waited for my earlier self to arrive. I soon saw myself appear in the center of the room, just as I remembered. I stood still, staring at the back of my head.

“This wasn’t what I expected the past to be like.”

I took a step towards my earlier self and gripped my weapon.

I looked around warily, absorbing the unfamiliar sights.

I checked my watch. 4:28 AM. It was time to commit the grandest act of goodness possible. I held the power to end it all before it ever began.

No one will ever hear of my bravery – I only knew that I was doing what’s right. I removed my weapon from its holster, took steady aim, and…

“For morality,” I murmured angrily, and the deed was done.

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