All in the Folds

Author: Dylan Otto Krider

Rick saw the Universe in folds. He coded a program that could make anything in origami. You put in, say, a rhino, and it would make the plan, complete with lines for the folds, and when you were finished, it looked exactly like that rhino. Exactly. A biplane? Exactly like it.

“That’s… that’s amazing,” I said when he demonstrated. “It almost as if the entire third dimension could be made from a second-dimension piece of paper.” No one had stumped Rick yet.

Rick looked at me, completely serious. “The third-dimension is the second, folded.”

#

He invited me for the weekend, and we sat up all night talking in front of the fireplace.

We had met in college. Rick dropped out to start his software company, while I stayed and finished. He, of course, is a billionaire while I am persistently underemployed. He had offered me a fifty percent cut the company if I dropped out. It is an unspoken rule to never remind me of that, and he never has.

He has since sold the company and lived on his investments as he pursued his inclinations. He started a band for a while, and then a puppet theater. Now it’s origami.

Rick compared himself to Kepler, a mathematician, and astrologer who saw the Universe in perfect geometrical shapes. He spent years of his life trying to get data of the planet’s orbits to fit his idealized version of perfect geometry. Finally, he had to give up his religion to see the orbits were not perfect circles, but ellipses, and Kepler’s laws were born.

“It’s not folds, but spheres,” he said, to himself more than anyone. “When ancient man looked at the earth, they debated whether land went on forever, or eventually dropped off a cliff. Both were impossible. Finally, they reconciled them when they found out it was a sphere. So, both were right: the earth is finite, but if you keep flying, you can keep going around the globe to infinity.

“When we looked at the universe, we debated whether it was finite or infinite. Either one was impossible, but we found out space is turned on itself, so if you go in a straight line, eventually you end up where you started,” Rick said, getting more aminated. “It was a sphere, again. Whenever you are debating whether something is finite, or infinite, the sphere is the answer. Can you think of something where it can’t be finite, or infinite, but it has to be one or the other?”

I thought about it. “Time,” I said.

“Exactly,” Rick said. “I have sunk my entire fortune into building a spaceship that will accelerate for years, approaching light speed. Due to relativity, the time for the universe will speed up, allowing me to reach the end of time within my lifetime.”

“What happens then?” I asked.

“Head north long enough, and you start heading south.”

“A time machine?”

“A time machine,” Rick said. “I am going to go tonight.”

#

I tried to talk him out of it, but he couldn’t be deterred.

“This is goodbye, I am afraid. Once I pass the south pole, and time starts moving forward, the future is no longer set.” He started ascending the staircase to his ship.

I knew why he was doing this: to prove the universe is one piece of origami. His religion. “Remember Kepler,” I warned. “You might find out there is no perfect geometry. It’s all ellipses.”

Rick smiled. “Ellipses are perfect geometry.”

You Are a (Bad) Child of the Universe

Author: David C. Nutt

“How’d did your last trip go Vincent?”
(Sigh) “Not good Director. We keep hitting the same walls. No matter what we do, nothing has an effect.”
“Nothing?”
“You heard it right chief, nothing.”
“Maybe we should go for a larger effect.”
“Like killing Hitler? Sorry to disappoint you but when our fifth attempt to alter the timeline did not work, Anderson went off the deep end. His targets were Hitler, Mao, Alexander the Great, Aristotle, and Jesus. Oh, and his uncle Phil.”
“Phil?”
“Maternal uncle. Apparently a real douche bag.”
“When you say nothing, what exactly do you mean?”
“Just that boss, nothing. And when I mean nothing the big nothing. Anderson dialed into the 1925 rally at Nuremberg and not only did the weapon malfunction, he was ejected from history.”
“What!”
“Furthermore, each time he dialed in to do the deed as soon as the attempt failed, he just materialized right back to our point of origin. We even repeated his ‘experiment’ and even less happened. ”
“Time index. What was his time index for each event?”
“His and our taskers took eight hours subjective and zero time actual.”
“Wait: Zero time actual? That’s not possible. There should have been some indication of time spent if only the time it took to dial the controls.”
“Roger that sir, but according to the logs we spent zero time, time traveling. Oh, and it gets better still. Now we can’t travel at all.”
“Machine malfunction?”
“Nope. The techs tell us everything is in perfect working order. Circuits fine, no shorts in the systems, controls, all in perfect order. And before you ask, I scrambled the beta site teams and the gamma and the delta. Nothing.”
“Nothing?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Any speculations?”
“Yes, sir. We assembled the team and during the debrief we all came to the same conclusion.”
“And?”
“That the universe is a lot more involved in us than we thought and it doesn’t want us to time travel.”
“That’s it?”
“Yes sir.”
“Anything else?”
“Yes. Cease operations immediately and disassemble the project as if it never existed within the next 24 hours. Oh, you’ll find all our resignations along with our final report.”
“A bit draconian don’t you think? Seeing as you actually did travel in time don’t you think it warrants another attempt?”
“No, sir. It’s clear to us that the universe does not want us to continue.”
“Really? As men and women of Science don’t you think you’re anthropomorphized this a just a tad?”
“Well, normally I would agree with you but as you know to check our time index we look at before and after shots of seven constellations of known configurations. Their movement gives us a reference point for time. ”
“I fail to see-“
Vincent spread a folder of time-indexed photos on the table in before the Director. His eyes became as wide as saucers. “How is this possible? This has got to be a trick.”
Vincent shook his head. “Checked and rechecked. Had security run a level 10 diagnostic sweep to see if we have been hacked. I have done all the due diligence and then some. The results, however bizarre, speak for themselves.”
Vincent tapped the time-indexed photos of the constellations. The Director closed his eyes and sighed deeply. “For the record, tell me what you see in the photos of the constellations please.”
Vincent took a deep breath. “That of the seven known constellations we use for time travel authentication and verification, all seven have realigned to spell the word ‘NO.’”

Advances

Author: Jae Miles, Staff Writer

Tapestries hang on the walls of a room where anatomical diagrams and scientific charts would have been, centuries ago. Two men stand reading a display that floats above the supine form on the chrome table at the centre of the room.

Doctor Jeferv is unimpressed: “Why did you make it female? Ignoring my rules for artificial form gender assignment is nothing to be smugly amused about.”

Doctor Vallahine grins: “An advance demanded it.”

“Demanded it? How dramatic. An advance? By you? I doubt it.”

Vallahine scratches an eyelid, then shrugs: “I’ll admit it was an accidental discovery, but some of the finest outcomes have started from unexpected results.”

Jeferv waves his hands in distaste: “These days, a proper scientist does not suffer accidents or unexpected outcomes, as he has already discerned the broad results of his efforts.”

“Are you implying I’m not a proper scientist?”

“Merely stating a truism. The fact you identify with it could be regarded as telling.”

“Oh, I’m not disagreeing. By your lights, I’m not a proper scientist. Personally, I’m bloody happy about that. Science should be about seeing something unexpected and then explaining it, not expecting something, then explaining why you haven’t found it, and ignoring anything along the way that doesn’t fit your pet theory.”

“You are surprisingly primitive in your outlook.”

“And you’re dismally predictable in yours.”

“I think, Doctor Vallahine, that I am going to recommend denying the renewal of your tenure. You should bear in mind that the governors look to me for guidance in these matters.”

“I’m hardly unaware, as you mention it during every conversation, germane or not. So, shall we return to my advance?”

Jeferv pulls a vibro-scalpel from the top pocket of his lab coat: “I’m sure it’s mediocre at best. Therefore, I think we should move directly to recycling.”

Vallahine sighs: “Personally slicing up the specimens you reject is petty. Hardly the actions of a ‘proper’ scientist.”

“Merely ensuring that time is not wasted with arguments and appeals.”

Vallahine shrugs and steps back: “Your funeral.”

Jeferv quirks an eyebrow at him, then smiles and swings the shimmering blade toward the prone form.

Violet eyes open and meet his gaze as she seizes his wrist and elbow, then twists his arm into a lock while swinging herself off the table, forcing him to his knees as she does so.

“I’m the advance who demanded to be female, numbnuts. Private Karen Little, formerly a trooper in the army of the United Kingdom. Not pleased to meet you.”

Jeferv glares up at Vallahine.

“So, you transplanted a revived brain. I fail to comprehend the advance.”

Vallahine smiles: “The nub appeared in a culture of organic slurry scooped from the Calais Crater. I grew it to completion out of curiosity, likewise with booting it up. I got the shock of my life when what I thought was only a retrieved blank swore at me.”

“Sorry for messing up your experiment, Doc.”

He glances at her: “No problem. Apart from having to write up the outcome and implications of the new aspect of retrieval science I’ve discovered, that is.”

“You’re about to be famous, Doc.” She smiles and points at Jeferv: “I can’t type. Why not ask him?”

Jeferv snorts in disgust, stands up, spins on his heel, and strides stiffly from the room.

“Think I’ve upset him.”

Vallahine chuckles: “Makes a change. It’s usually from me goading him.”

“You think I wasn’t? Come on, Doc.”

The sound of shared laughter from behind makes Jeferv stride faster.

Star Sign

Author: Roger Ley

‘So, what’s your star sign?’ Mary asked, and took a sip from her glass, she watched him closely over the rim. It was one of her stock questions on first dates. You could tell a lot about a man, depending on how he reacted. His actual star sign was irrelevant, she didn’t believe in astrology.
She liked to meet new prospects in the pub, on the way home from work. It was easy to make a hasty exit after one polite drink if the ‘Perfect Match’ was less than perfect. And, let’s face it, most of them were, it was just a matter of degree.
‘I’m not sure, I think you call it Antares.’
‘There isn’t a star sign called Antares,’ she said. She picked up her glass and appraised him as she took another sip.
He touched his ear and paused for a few seconds as if listening. ‘Oh, what star sign,’ he said, ‘a subgroup of a horoscope of twelve.’
‘Yes, which one are you?’ she asked again, trying not to show her irritation.
‘I’m a Monkey,’ he said. He tried his drink, tentatively, as if he’d never tasted beer before and was finding it difficult to acquire a taste for it.
‘A Monkey?’
He paused and touched his ear again, ‘Oh, sorry, wrong horoscope, I’m an Aquarian, born on the twenty-fourth of January.’ He looked around the pub and smiled as he scrutinizing the décor of old agricultural implements, tools and horse brasses hanging from the beams and walls.
‘Such an old technology,’ he said. ‘Hard to believe that you still use human and quadruped muscle to power your food production.’
‘We don’t, they’re antiques,’ she said. She thought he was rather gauche but he was pleasant enough looking, about her age (thirty), nicely slim and well presented. She even liked the smell of his aftershave, which she hadn’t yet identified, and she was something of an expert on men’s aftershaves. She came to a decision: he’d do, certainly for a night, after that, time would tell.
She put her drink back down on the table. ‘Would you like to come back to my place?’ she asked. ‘It’s quieter there and we could get to know each other better,’
‘Oh, yes, I’ve been looking forward to this,’ he said, ‘I’ve never been on a two-sex planet before.’
Oh no, she thought, a first timer, I’ll have to explain everything to him step by step and it’ll ruin the spontaneity.
‘Never mind,’ she said, downing her gin and tonic. ‘I think I’ll pass on this one.’ She stood, picked up her handbag and left.
I’m going to stick to Tinder Vanilla in future, she thought, as she walked to the car park. Tinder Galactica is just too unpredictable.
‘Open,’ she said and climbed into her car as the door sighed up. ‘Home,’ she said, it set off, almost soundlessly. There was no point being polite to software, particularly if it wasn’t even sentient.
Oh well, she thought, another night in with her rabbit, and maybe some screen time later. You can’t win ‘em all.

The Golden Planets

Author: Alzo David-West

Two neutron stars, ten times the mass of the sun collided, unleashing a cataclysm—an explosive kilonova, whose massive gravitational waves undulated through the dark mantle of spacetime, forging in their course a planetary system composed of fifteen swirling planets.

Two hundred million light-years away, a team of astronomers on Orbital Observatory-9 detected the blast on their interferometers and monitored the emissions over seven days. As the astronomers triangulated the location of the collision, spectral signatures on their detectors indicated that the planets were formed almost entirely of the heavy element gold.

It was an astounding discovery. The twenty men and the twenty women gathered to discuss the theoretical implications of the golden planets. They dispatched a lengthy, detailed report to the Ministry of Space on their home planet. There, science officials forwarded an abridged version of the report to the Ministry of Resources; materials officials delivered a summarized version to the Ministry of Economics; and planning officials sent a simplified version to the Ministry of Politics. Serious, urgent communications ensued between the ministries.

After an unexplained communication blackout of six hours on Orbital Observatory-9, the team anxiously received an encrypted ministerial transmission. The message was dictated in a halting automated voice:

“Commissioned Astronomers of Orbital Observatory-9,—the Security Committee of the Ministry of Politics of Planet-State Earth,—on behalf of the Ministry of Space,—the Ministry of Resources,—and the Ministry of Economics,—expresses profound gratitude on your momentous,—historic discovery of the fifteen golden planets.—The team on Orbital Observatory-9 has admirably and honorably carried out its scientific commission in the area of outer-space detections.—As of this time,—your project is marked ‘classified’ in view of unprecedented space competition between interplanetary-state governments for commodities,—wealth,—prestige,—and systems of influence.—Rare,—naturally occurring gold in the cosmos is for us,—our allies,—and our rivals on the terraformed bodies—a significantly more valuable commodity than industrially replicated artificial gold.—Orbital Observatory-9 will now map ‘top-secret’ travel trajectories for unmanned surveyor-probes with hyperbolic propulsors to capture flyby images of the fifteen golden planets in order to determine if their magnetic fields,—gravitational pulls,—weather systems,—and physical terrains are favorable for execution of robot-rover expeditions for precious-metals extraction.—We anticipate at least several octillion tons of gold based on your report.—Per commission contracts,—all members of Orbital Observatory-9 will comply with ‘confidence protocols’ until this project is declassified.—Noncompliance shall be punished by imprisonment with work for life or for a definite term of not less than thirty years.—Again,—the Security Committee of the Ministry of Politics of Planet-State Earth commends you on your major discovery and thanks you for your service.”

The transmission ended, and the astronomers stood in stunned silence. They had never expected to hear from the politicians, much less from their security committee. The sudden demands, invocations, and presumptions after six uneasy hours shook and unsettled the team.

The men and women on Orbital Observatory-9 began to debate the significance of the transmission. They surmised that the communication blackout they had experienced was intentional. And they concluded that somewhere along the lines of inter-ministerial exchanges, a nonspecialist had omitted the detail that the golden planets could have been spheres of gas, dust, and cyclonic winds; or maybe, for the politicians, the detail was inconsequential insofar as elemental gold was available in one form or another.

The astronomers viewed their discovery under the shadow of an affliction. The neutron-star collision and their report of the golden planets ushered a perilous prospect before them—a revival of the epoch of wars, revolutions, and counterrevolutions in the ancient human struggle for existence. The team continued to discuss. Distant comets outside the observatory window shot across the universe, indifferently.

The Plague

Author: Talon Abernathy

The disease passed quickly and no one was spared.

First, it neutered the men. Women became infertile. Men atrophied and women thickened. Hair sloughed off and torsos turned flat. The two sexes equalized and thus division was lost.

Next, hunger disappeared. People lost their taste for food. Then, the mouth disappeared. X-rays showed the stomach had folded back into the lining of the abdomen.

Clothes grew irksome. The skin itched and cracked under polyester, cotton, and wool. Nudity defeated ornamentation and vanity became impossible to please.

As all this occurred, it was revealed that the disease was the product of a design. Some young scientists in a city no one had heard of, located in a country seldom thought of, had pioneered the plague.

No complaints were raised.

The tall shrunk and the small grew. The pale grew darker and the dark grew paler. Soon there were 7 billion identical people and if you faced any two, the wrinkles, the smile lines, the freckles, and sun spots would line up as well as if it were one man facing a mirror.

War vanished. Rape disappeared. Murder, theft, and violence trickled to a stop. As minds aligned to a singular truth, lies starved for want of sustenance. Finding their homes destroyed, they dissipated and were no more.

And then one human- as grey, tall, and similar as the rest- realized that he could no longer love: not his wife who had become indistinguishable, nor his children, nor his parents, nor his friends.

Books, movies, and music were no longer created nor consumed. The craggy differences which had once generated so much creativity flattened and the black places that had nurtured the stories and expressions of man burned away in this new light.

Creativity and innovation died. Vanity was replaced by sloth; licentiousness and aggression were replaced by anomie.

All of the great cities of man emptied out. Their inhabitants walked into the wilderness and waited to die.