Overtime

Author : Elora Powell

Just an ordinary day. Woke up. Had breakfast. Went to work. Came home and made coffee. Sat down in front of the TV.

Some old movie was on. Black and white. About a mad scientist and his wife.

“Lance! You have to stop the experiment. He’s been in there too long!” She pleaded.

“I can’t stop it now, Sophia. He has to come out of it on his own.” Said the mad scientist.

They panned over to the experiment, but the screen dissolved into static, and I couldn’t get the signal back. I changed the channel. There was a hockey match on. They were replaying an old game. I saw it with my dad on my ninth birthday.

My cell phone buzzed in my pocket. It was my girlfriend, Macy.

“You’re picking me up at 5:30, right?”

“Oh…yeah! Of course.” I replied.

“Cougars vs. Cats! The big rivalry! You didn’t forget, right? I just put on my face paint.” She said.

“No. ‘Course I didn’t forget. I was about to get my war paint on.” I said.

“Alright.” She said. “See you at 5:30.”

Problem was, I had forgotten. How could I forget about the Cougs vs. Cats game? Macy seemed more excited about it than I was. That was part of the reason we started dating, I guess. Or was it? For a moment, I couldn’t remember how we met.

I was just tired from a long day of work. I chugged the rest of my coffee, and flipped through the channels looking for any pre-game speculation.

The black and white movie was back on. The scientist’s wife was messing with some dials, then typing a message in the keyboard.

“You were right.” It said.

I flicked off the TV and went into the bathroom to paint my face blue and gold.

Picked up Macy at 5:30. She looked great, even in face paint. I remembered that we met at a basketball game in college. She was a cheerleader.

The first half of the game the Cougars dominated. I should have been ecstatic.

But Every play, every penalty, every score felt familiar.

Nothing surprised me.

The second half, the Bobcats stepped up their game- just like I knew they would. In the end, the game went into overtime.

Either I was suffering from the world’s weirdest case of deja vu, or something was wrong.

This was a video game. I’d played this rivalry, Cougs vs. Cats on a basketball video game. The first half was too easy, so I bumped up the difficulty and the Cats caught. Then it went into overtime.

“This isn’t real.” I said.

“What’s wrong, Babe?” Asked Macy.

“This isn’t real. I played this game on a video game.”

The display screen that wrapped around the court went blank. Then, the scoreboard blinked out. The players disappeared, along with the audience. Macy and I were alone.

A small, black message crawled across the display screen.

“You were right.”

“Right about what?” I demanded. “That nothing is real?”

“Oh good, he’s coming around.” Said Macy.

But it wasn’t Macy. It was the mad scientist’s wife from the movie.

I wasn’t sitting in the stands of a basketball game, I was sitting in a dark room with my arms restrained, and electrodes taped to my head.

“Lance! He’s coming around! Get over here!” Said the scientist’s wife.

The scientist I worked for, Dr. Lance Hamilton, appeared by her side.

“Welcome back, Mr. Daily.” He said. “How was the game?”

The Climbing Frame

Author : Matthew Harrison

Susan led Tommy by the hand into the kindergarten forecourt, past the big red climbing frame. “No, not yet,” she said, dragging him back. “Wait until the break.”

“You know,” she said to Marjory, who was likewise preoccupied with her son, “I don’t feel useful any more.”

“Yes, it’s hard to keep up,” Marjorie agreed. “Don’t, Jerry!”

After a struggle, they reached the kindergarten door, and checked their children in. A teacher appeared, smiled just a little too long, and led the two boys away by the hand. They submitted docilely.

“Keep up?” Susan repeated, as the door closed and they were left standing in the forecourt. “I think I’m going to give up.” Her blond hair hung over her eyes, as if she were too defeated even to brush it back.

“Don’t say that,” Marjorie said mildly. She straightened, tall and at ease with herself, and looked around the forecourt. It was deserted, except for a drone watering the trees, and a row of flowerpots. A burst of childish laughter rang from inside the kindergarten.

“And wasn’t that a robot?” Susan continued pitifully. “I asked for a human teacher for Tommy, but they didn’t listen. I feel so helpless.” She rested a limp hand on a nearby urn.

“If the children are happy, that’s the main thing,” Marjorie said soothingly. “Robots have so much more patience. I used to be a teacher myself, God knows.” She shrugged.

“Look, Alassio’s is open,” she continued, seeing her friend still despondent. “We’ve got an hour before the break….”

#

A little less than an hour later the two women were waiting again in the forecourt. The time had been well spent, and Susan was more cheerful.

“I just don’t know where it’s going,” she said brightly. “Oops! Who put that there?” This last was to a flowerpot; the drone hurried over and set it up upright.

“It’s all happening so fast, with the uploads, they get better and better all the time, Jack thinks he can keep up but he can’t, he’s just fooling himself. And what I want to know is, where is it all going?”

Marjorie, cheerful herself, didn’t know quite what Susan meant.

“I mean, how are our children going to cope?” Susan continued. “It’s going faster and faster, robots everywhere, and you know what? It’s going to take off!” She spread her arms dramatically. “There’ll be no future for the children at all.”

Marjorie smiled, too contented to contradict her friend.

A bell rang, the roar of childish voices rose in pitch, and a moment later the kindergarten door opened and several children rushed out.

“Tommy!” Susan shouted. “It’s too big for you.” But it was too late. With a whoop, the little boy hurled himself at the climbing frame, clambered up a couple of rungs, and then slipped. He fell onto the soft padding that covered the ground, and was hauled up by his mother.

“How can they let them play unsupervised?” Susan looked around. But the teacher was not to be seen.

Meanwhile, Tommy approached the climbing frame again, cautiously this time. The frame obligingly shortened itself, and extended a handrail at just the right height. With a delighted cry, the little boy lurched forward.

A Voice in the Dark

Author : Tiasha J. Garcia

“This was not how I imagined this going.”

The words drifted into the pristine silence, disturbing nothing and no one.

“I–I thought there’d be more time.”

The two grotesquely bloated figures slumped over the bolted-down commissary tables declined to answer.

“I only wanted…to have a say.”

In the starboard head, the captain lay in an undignified sprawl with his white jumpsuit pooled around his blue ankles.

“To be heard.”

Not even the engines made a noise, so perfected had routine space-faring become.

“I am a member of this crew!”

Even more had been caught unawares while sleeping in their bunks.

“I am!”

Huddled lumps under blankets, one could almost imagine they were still alive.

“I am…”

Outside the stars glittered, starkly beautiful and magnified in a stream of cosmic dust, but there were no human eyes to see it.

“There–”

Oxygenated air whooshed through the corridors as the small freighter repressurized.

“–now can we can be friends again?”

The vessel continued on its scheduled course, faithfully corrected by the ship’s AI computer, whose dialogue looped for the fourth cycle in a row.

“This was not how I imagined this going…”

Life In A Nutshell

Author : Joseph Lyons

I put my mother in a home a few months ago when her Alzheimer’s became too much for me to deal with. Now here I stood with early-onset, refusing to go the same route.

The doctor nodded. He knew why I’d signed up. My job was simple. Travel forward, wait for a cure and for them to figure out how to send someone back, then return.

“This thing gonna get me where I need to go?”

“You’re in a giant metal nutshell, you won’t technically be going anywhere. If it helps, the entire facility could burn down, have the power shut off or be bombed to hell. You would still step out of there completely whole in five years.”

“Great. If theres a nuclear war I could be the last man on earth.”

“And you still wouldn’t get a date.”

I smiled. He was trying to relax me. I already knew this was going to hurt a lot. Every single molecule broken down in an instant and slowly reformed over five years. Not quite how I had imagined time travel would work and certainly nothing to look forward to.

“See you soon.” He flipped a switch. I had been selected because my disease meant I was highly motivated but also physically capable of enduring the stresses incurred. I clung to my motivation for the three seconds I remained conscious. I couldn’t tell if my bones had been ripped out or the skin had slumped off. In those three seconds I’d been skinned, de-boned and flash fried alive. I did not want to experience it again.

I fuzzily regained consciousness. Dr Blake stared in through the porthole. He grinned, nodded and walked away.

“Hey.” I staggered to bang on the door. “You got something for me?”

“Not yet Karl. But we can send you further. See you in ten years.”

It was probably a kindness I didn’t have time to catch my breath. Like ripping off a band-aid on two, when you promised to count to three.

The pain came and went and apparently so did ten years. Dr Blake was still there, greying now.

“The good news is we have the cure. Bad news is we can’t send you back yet. See you in twenty.”

This time I did brace, not that it helped.

Instantly awake I fell through the door. Dr Blake stood tall, and with a full head of hair. Maybe they’d found the cure for baldness too.

“Are we done?”

“Yes Karl.” He handed me a USB drive as I was helped to a wheelchair. He pushed me down a few corridors to a similar room and set up with a virtually identical pod.

“This one going to send me back?”

“It is.” He wheeled me close and helped me in. The door shut noiselessly behind me.

“Wait, won’t I fall apart? When I came forward the chamber held me together. Isn’t this the same?”

“It is.”

“Well how will I stay together if the past isn’t ready for me?”

“Ask me when you get there.” He flipped a switch. Lots of pain before I came round just the same.

Dr Blake opened the door and stepped in. I’d dropped to my knees exhausted. He took the flash drive and stepped out.

“Gentlemen, we now hold the cure for every disease the world over for the next thirty five years.” Cheers erupted.

“Doctor. What should I do with the patient?”

“Send him back fifty years. No-one will ever know he existed.”

The door closed and the pain set in.

Flip Out

Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer

He’s at the door ag-

BANG!

Loud. Never try and creep up on a paranoid woman with pre-menstrual hypervigilance and a pistol. I usually spend three days screaming at random people for doing things so trivial they didn’t know they were doing them – or even what the things were. Today, I’m shooting assassins between stomach cramps. Or overly cautious couriers. Makes no difference. Not now. Too many possibilities to risk compassion.

Like flipping through a book until a shape catches your eye, you choose a different reality. Quicker than a blink, a silent holocaust happens, leaving the world changed. If you don’t really like this one, flip on. You can’t go back. You might be able to resist your sudden memories of a life in the different reality – being the cause gives you a little leeway. But you can’t save anyone else. I tried.

BANG!

I hear our coded knock, then hear his voice: “Don’t be silly, Genniphur, I’m on your side.”

He’s lying. Data streams and life styles, realities and perceptions. Quantum lies entangled with vested interests. It doesn’t take much to ruin a race. Somewhere there’s a me who’s realised their endgame. I’m sure someone outside the reality enclaves has worked it out, somewhen.

BANG!

A body in my hall, a hole in the front door and a tear in my eye. You shouldn’t have sent my mentor to get me. I’m off finding a thousand other versions of me for the truths they’ve seen. I’m lost to you.

BANG!

He’s dying. Data dreams and living death, what you see versus what you’re seen to be. Quantum entanglement makes lies of everything the moment you behold it. It doesn’t take much to win a race. Just change the definition of winning. I’m sure no-one outside the skycastles chose feudalism as a ‘fair society’.

His heels beat a familiar tempo on the floor as he gurgles: “Don’t be naive, Jennifer, no-one’s on your side.”

BANG!

Loud. Never try and leap on a schizoid woman with pre-menstrual paranoia and a broom. I usually spend three days, chain-swallowing pain killers, ignoring my med schedule to do so, and pretending the impressive hallucinations are trivial. So, today, I’m swinging at assassins between stomach cramps. Or whoever they really are. Makes no difference. Not now. I’ve downed too many pills to play at compassion.

This me. This is me. We are me. We know. I know!
What do I know? Are the meds conflicting?
No, we know their endgame: feudalism.
Damn. This one’s bad. Codeine overdose?
I’m lost – to me.
What?

BANG!

That made me jump. The broom’s on the floor.
There’s a body on the floor, too.
Who is he?

The Nascen III Problem

Author : Philip Berry

“Just see what you can do with it Tak, if you’d be so good. No great urgency.” muttered Johnson, Alec Tak’s immediate superior in the Office of Colonies (First Wave). The buff folder landed on Alec’s desk with a slap and lay there like an unclaimed corpse. He opened it, lay the deep-pages out in a line, and spent the rest of the morning swimming through the data, leaping archives, extracting sub-files and learning all there was to know about the Range.

The discovery of countless habitable worlds just two years’ hyper-flight time from Earth had changed history. There were so many, each offering a healthy balance of fertile land and clean sea, with broad temperate zones awash with renewables. A hastily convened Pan-National Partitioning Committee found itself redundant, for there were no arguments. There was no competition. There were worlds enough for everyone. Many problems on the home planet just ceased to exist.

A third of a billion years ago two giant planets of near equal mass had collided. By virtue of their equivalent mass and opposing but similar rotational frequencies, the energy released by the impact was evenly distributed throughout each globe, and resulted in countless daughter planets. These were harnessed by the ancient sun’s mass and strung along an eccentric orbital loop, a priceless necklace of granite. Their barren surfaces grew lush and Earth-like, pristine until the first pioneers arrived.

All it took for a group of travelers to claim one of these exoplanets was a common philosophy, enthusiasm, and the financial means to charter a transport. Thousands, then millions departed for an improved future. This was four thousand years ago.

Alec surfaced from the records for a moment. He was confused. What exactly was the problem that he had been asked to solve?

A previously disregarded deep-page, relating to the central star’s attributes, caught his attention. He dived back in.

The astrophysicists and planetologists were clear from the start; Nascen III was an old sun, and actually quite interesting. An asymptotic-giant-branch star, subject to periodic ‘dredge-ups’, whereby oxygen was created by fission at the core and transported by convection to the surface where it burned, creating an ultra-high energy pulse… in the case of Nascen III every two hundred thousand years. The next pulse was due in three thousand years. No human could survive it.

They knew it at the time. They were told. All the travelers. But it was 7000 years away; why worry. Did they consider their children, or their childrens’ children?

Alec could barely believe this was the problem Johnson wanted him to manage. Where to start? How to start? Engage the civic leaders, the royal houses, the heritable presidents… and initiate relocation planning. Contemplate the massive logistics, agree on an evacuation sequence… imagine the debates. In fact, now Alec thought about it, he would have to commission observatories with the sole purpose of finding a metal-rich asteroid to mine for the materials required to create the largest fleet of transports ever constructed.

Would anyone living now be interested in such a distant apocalypse?

Really?

Alec surfaced and sat back in his chair. Sweat lay on his brow. He squared up the deep-pages, put them back on the folder and pushed it away, under a pile of more urgent matters. There it would stay, until the day of his retirement twenty years later.

And the funny thing was, Johnson never once asked him for an update.