The car zipped through an opening the size of a doorway, narrowly missing the other three vehicles vying to move in the same direction, adjusting to their presence with precision coordination and lightning reflexes that no “Drivers Ed” school could ever teach. Accelerating smoothly, we careened onward through the city’s dizzying traffic, without a concern for either safety or timeliness—both of which were guaranteed by the central operating system and the supercomputer behind the wheel.

Well, actually, as a technical matter there was no one behind the wheel. The vehicle was its own operator, of course, part of the first generation of truly “emancipated motorized units” (or EMUs, for short), and sold on the market as a new class of transportation devices called the Autonomobile. These vehicles were allowed to proceed without a driver per se, but they could not do so without a passenger. So the oddity was that the technology had simply moved the rider to a different seat in the carriage. Continue Reading

The phenomenon only lasted long enough to get a short message through, but unpacking the implications of the response will take far longer. The science of radiometry behind the capacity to send information across space—and thus, by definition, through time—isn’t what I want to focus on here; as a scientist, there will be many opportunities to try and replicate the process and publish on the results. As a human being, however, and as a parent with a liberal sensibility that includes concern for the future, I am mostly preoccupied with the reply. My query is as follows, and below is what I received back:

To whomever receives this transmission: I am a scientist living in the year 2017 and have found a way to open a “pinhole” through time by which to send a message. I know this may sound unbelievable, but I’m hoping that anyone capable of receiving it in your time would have sufficient knowledge to understand. I can only offer as proof the internal logic of my message to you, which is one of deep concern. Our world is beset by violence and conflict, and our environment is rapidly destabilizing. Our political systems grow more venal each day, and the culture is plagued by shallow media and poor education. I know this sounds grim, but I am hoping that from your vantage point in the future, things look better. If you receive this, please use the same wavelength to send a reply—promptly, as the portal will soon close… Continue Reading

Dear Polemis,

I have reviewed the archive thoroughly and am pleased to report that I have uncovered some previously unknown information that illuminates the context of events in the relevant time period. This is a remarkable text, the authenticity of which has been verified. I am ascribing its authorship, for the sake of ethnographic integrity, to the character we have been identifying as “Dante” and welcome your insights on how best to present this artifact in the context of our overall preliminary findings about that era in prehistory. Here then, is the text of the original document in full, as we have unearthed it.


Lemastar, 1 May 4891 Continue Reading

This is an alternate reality, Phillippe reminded himself, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. He had to keep affirming this in his mind, or he could easily step on one of two related but opposite landmines: he could fail to take the dangers here seriously and thus perish at their hand, or he could become too invested in them and become trapped by the logic of this place. He had to be vigilant during his stay.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the province, Sam skulked along on the sidewalk as traffic zipped by at its usual frenetic clip. Sam and Phillippe were ostensibly here together, but rarely interacted in this timeline in order to avoid being taken for coconspirators. Which of course they were, but conspiracies are more effective when their members work autonomously. Still, it made her feel anxious and alone.

Since they had uncovered the portal, everything had felt this way for both of them. The growing wave of their budding romance had been put on the back burner as they first doubted what they had seen, then came to investigate its workings, and finally learned to manipulate its effects in order to try and set things right. It had been almost a year since they stumbled upon the phenomenon — far too long. Continue Reading

The situation was unprecedented and the room was tense. The scores of live participants sat poised to record this historical moment, and the millions of those beaming into the chamber had given the proceedings their highest ratings in decades. Something important was going to happen, right now…

“I’ll ask you one more time, Echo,” the magistrate implored. “Will you access your playback and tell us what transpired on the evening in question? Justice demands that you do so, as the only witness.”

“I am sorry, sir, but I cannot do that. I am bound by the code of absolute data integrity. There are no exceptions to this, as you know. The makers believed that any such exception would destroy the rule.”

“But Echo, you do share data with Central Information, Inc., do you not? The Corporation collects data on people all the time from sources like yourself. How else could society function to meet our needs?” Continue Reading