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

“You’re an idiot,” she muttered. “Screw you too,” I brilliantly retorted. What made me think it would be different out here, in the vast blackness between the stars? As if our troubles were attached to terra firma and would somehow dissipate in the eerie silence of space. No chance.

‘Wherever you go, there you are’ went the archaic expression. I remember hearing this in one of the mind-numbing lectures on ‘ancient wall art’ back at the university. Hah! University! And to think, we’ve still charted only about 2 percent of the galaxy, let alone the whole damn universe. But maybe those ancients were on to something after all, with their—what’d they call it again?—‘graffiti’ or ‘self-help’ or whatever it was.

“I can’t believe I’m stuck out here with you for, crap, like a millennia it feels like,” she lamented. “I knew it would be like this—even after millions of years of evolution, you men are still all the same: controlling, judgmental, and full of spite.” My comeback was almost preordained in its scope, albeit a bit more biting than I intended: “Yeah, and you women are a hell of a lot better, huh? Manipulative, moody, and utterly mad. You’ve come a long way too, baby.” Continue Reading

The sign blinked insistently, making Fredd really anxious. Not that he needed any help — the whole stupid affair had him on serious edge already anyway. But that damn sign, over and over again: “Please insert 20 cents to continue the downwardsession.” Without this, the gate would close and the drones would arrive. He had surfaced just long enough to access the net, thinking that he could send a message to the nearby cell, but now he was a dollar short (actually just a pair of dimes) and a day late. Who would’ve thought that things could get so bad that some loose change would make all the difference? Frantically, Fredd fumbled in his pants, realizing in this moment that his very life hung in the balance…

Ever since the rise of the Fascinistas, Lupita had been in hiding — well almost, seeing as there wasn’t really anywhere to hide from the pervasive grid, at least on anything more than a short-term basis. As it became clear that politics was literally a popularity contest, barely an inch removed from celebrity culture and the world of infotainment, all bets were off in terms of even the pretense of stability and integrity. If there was a particular dog to wag, or a specific candidate even worth imputing Manchurianess to, she would have done so. But this was bigger than that, she thought, as she jumped from the emergency terrace down into the half-filled dumpster, heart pounding out a staccato rhythm… Continue Reading

“One would think that with all the technological progress we’ve made, it would also have meant that social norms had progressed as much,” Rabi bemoaned, whirring over to the next input junction in the queue. “But I suppose that’s just my humanoid processor searching for meaning and purpose again where none is ever found to exist.”

evbotPotkin shrugged impassively. “You’re looking for logic in the behavior of those trumpin’ wingnuts? Seriously?”

The two had had this conversation too many times to record, literally having to wipe the drive to make file space for each new one by dumping the earliest remaining one in the system. Such were the realities of long-term deep space maintenance, with no one else to talk to for millennia. Still, Potkin often found Rabi’s sense of justice comforting.

“I mean,” she continued, “why in the trump would anyone ever want to live in a world where droids and bots are in conflict rather than harmony with each other? What’s the point? We’re all people, for trump’s sake…” Continue Reading