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
Space is cold, but she was always warm. The casual brushes of her body as she passed in the sterile corridors, the faint residuals of her breath in the recycled air, the lilting afterglow of her voice over the com. The flame streaks in her hair matched the fire in her eyes, and all of it radiated an evanescent glow amidst the icy vacuum.
The mission had been a frosty one since the blaze of the afterburn was extinguished nearly a year ago. Once escape velocity had been reached, we switched over to low-energy mode, subsisting on the diminishing rays of the sun as we careened purposefully toward a self-imposed oblivion. The fact that it was all seen as heroic by everyone and everything left behind only accentuated the emptiness.
But I won’t complain, at least not out loud. I chose this life, mostly for the chance to do something memorable and important, and to be a maker of history rather than a consumer of it. The stars beckoned, persuasively, and even though I would never technically get there in this lifetime, I would be part of the first wave of humans to achieve a proximate vantage point and to pave the way beyond. Continue Reading
“It’s okay,” Sean reassured me. “Focus on the silence, feel it around you, let it keep you safe. One deep breath, then another. Good, keep going. Almost there,” he whispered.
“Okay, thanks, I feel better.” This was the third time this month that I had a problem during the service, but so far only Sean knew about it. I guess that’s what best friends are for: protecting secrets.
It was hot in the power plant today, even more than usual. People think space is cold, but not in here. The whole ship is like a sweaty, tropical moisture bubble. It’s a good design, one that recirculates water (human-produced and otherwise) through the system all the time, and which makes it possible to grow food and plants everywhere on board. Like being in a floating greenhouse traveling at high velocities.
But the paradox was sometimes hard to handle, being so warm in here but surrounded by the frigid near-vacuum of space. For some of us, just a few really, the tension was difficult to bear, while most of the others seemed completely fine with it. I was, too, until recently when the breathing issues started. Continue Reading
Heading back “home” again always made Hayley feel both anxious and excited. They say the road can be cold and lonely, and a lot of the time it was. But it was also filled with grand adventures and wondrous sights. Still, none of it meant anything without those trips back home—with its warmth and anticipation.
She felt good this year, trim and agile, and even had lost a bit of weight. Her mood was blue—not in the sense of being sad or melancholy, but more so in the way she felt energetic and in her haste to get home. The work kept her on the move, often against the tide so to speak, but now it felt like gliding on ice as she coasted back to the place where she would be recognized as special: to see and be seen again.
“I’ll be there soon,” Hayley thought to herself in the dark quietude of the long road. “I’ll stay for a little while, then I just need to check in with the boss for a bit, and then I’ll be back again right after that.” Saying it aloud in her own mind made it seem like a promise, but also an explanation for her absence. Continue Reading
There had to be an answer somewhere—there always was. They wouldn’t give me a problem without a solution, would they? Could they, even if they wanted to? Even Fermat’s been solved—everything has.
Then again, maybe this is part of the problem in itself: the idea that every question requires an answer. What a different world it might be if some things were left open, unquantified, elusive, awesome…
But that’s not this world, to be sure. Multilayered complex problems require equally robust solutions, which tend to create further complications, requiring more solution-oriented processes, and so on.
I remember once reading something about how cultures generally define for themselves a range of ailments consistent with their level of knowledge and medicine; beyond this realm lies the unnamed. Continue Reading