Category Archives: Stories and Novels

My Short Story Statistics

After publishing my short stories on the Short Story Project site and the links to them on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr (Google Plus is going down April 2, so I didn’t bother posting there), you may find the relative rankings in terms of popularity below:

  1. Venus de Milo (17 readers)
  2. A Walk in the Desert (14 readers)
  3. The Session (11 readers)
  4. Little Boy Blue (10 readers)
  5. Investigations of a Kafkaesque Nature (10 readers)
  6. Something Happened (10 readers)
  7. An Idea for a Short Story (9 readers)
  8. Who Weeps for Cadmus? (8 readers)
  9. Heart of Tin (6 readers)

#1 is the most popular. #9 is the least popular. Of course, I have my own opinions about which stories are better and which are less so, but I can’t argue with popular opinion. Read them and let me know which stories you like best.

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Predictions

What if we all put our heads together and thought about possibilities, things that could happen but haven’t yet. In mapping out the future, let’s lump it into three more manageable categories: Near-Term (10-30 years), Medium-Term (30-100 years), and Long-Term (100-1000 years).

Near-Term would include possible extensions of existing processes and/or technologies.

Medium-Term would include possible extensions of Near-Term processes and/or technologies.

Long-Term would include possible extensions of Medium-Term processes and/or technologies.

I will start this out, but you all are invited to join by submitting comments to this post. Add your predictions to the comments. Try to detail what it will do and/or what impact it will have on us. You don’t need to detail how it would be implemented or invented. I will add more predictions via future posts, just to keep the ball rolling. Here’s my first prediction:

Prediction #1 (Near-Term)

There will be VR (Virtual Reality) bodysuits with tactile points remotely correlated to touch points on a VR glove and mediated by VR goggles projecting a virtual representation of the world, oneself, another living being, etc. The VR platform will tie together a digital representation of the senses of seeing, hearing, and touch. It will allow people to reach out with their VR gloves and touch someone they see through his VR goggles, and to feel the pressure, shape, and heat of the touch via the tactile points on the VR bodysuit. The VR bodysuit will have an embedded dense network of nodes capable of receiving digitally conveyed tactile sensations and reproducing them on the physical skin touching that node. The VR bodysuit will cover the entire body and be form fitting over all appendages. The suit itself will be breathable and weigh hardly anything.

Remote digitization of the senses of taste and smell will probably be introduced to the VR platform later.

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Filed under & Philosophy, Essays, Essays, Dilemmas, & Philosophy, Prose, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Uncategorized

The Rational Series Is Out with an Amazing Deal

The Rational Series - 41QmCzx+ReL

The Rational Series, The complete set of novels from The Rational Series by Mike Stone, including “Why Is Unit 142957 Sad? (or The Tin Man’s Heart), “The Rats and the Saps”, “Whirlpool”, and Out of Time”.

Digital version available on Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0789JZHLC ($5.00)

Paperback version available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1981705511/ ($29.95)

The first novel is about a love affair between a robot and the beautiful programmer who created it, in an epic spanning millions of years and two galaxies. The second novel is about a war between Sapiens and a new species of humans, called Rationals. The third novel is an experimental psycho-science-fiction story taking place sometime in the future, involving an author in a mental institution and his characters. The fourth novel is about a battle to save the universe, between Rationals and Sapiens on one side and a species far superior to them. All this in one book!

If you love science fiction (or if you love someone who loves science fiction), this will make an amazing Christmas present. The four novels in paperback would cost you $75.84, but from now until Christmas you pay only $29.95!

Don’t wait! Click now. It’s the rational thing to do.

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Out of Time

Just a heads-up here. I’m starting on the third and final part of my fourth science fiction novel in the Rational Series. It’s called “Out of Time”. If you like sci-fi, especially from an author who does his homework, I think you’ll really like this one.

Like my other books, you can read the book “over my shoulders” while I’m working on it but, once I finish and publish it, all you’ll see are the links to purchase the book.

So take a look, over my shoulder, and let me know what you think of it. Just click the following link: Out of Time.

Mike Stone

Raanana, Israel

 

 

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Venus de Milo

“What can I do for you?”

“Well, Professor Palmer, I’ve been browsing the Internet and came across your work on false memories and external indicators differentiating false and true memories,” Axel answered the man sitting behind the oversized mahogany desk.

“That was based on research and clinical experience with childhood traumas such as those of rape or incest victims,” the professor explained.

Axel laughed, “That’s not my case, not that know of, at least that’s not why I came to you. Something’s been gnawing at me for the last few years now. Something that I took for granted since I was a child, something I believed to be true like the solidity of the ground I walk on.”

“Please go on,” the professor was skeptical but interested. The man sitting in the highback chair across from him seemed somewhat older than himself, physically fit, and not given to believing every passing nonsense.

“It’s something that is of consequence only to me but none-the-less has considerable impact on me,” Axel continued.

“What has been the impact on you?” the professor asked, looking for some classic symptom to latch onto.

“The impact on me has been to call into question all of my childhood memories related to my relationship with my birth mother,” Axel answered, taking the time to choose the precise words.

“Your birth mother?” the professor repeated, raising his eyebrow.

“Yes,” Axel explained. “that would deserve some elaboration. My father and mother divorced each other when I was seven years old. Dad remarried when I was nine. After some initial difficulties in accepting my new mother, I came to refer to her as “Mom” or “my mother”, and to the woman who gave birth to me as ‘my birth mother‘ or ‘my biological mother‘.”

“How did your birth mother feel about your referring to her as that?” the professor probed, thinking he might be getting closer to the core issue.

“Sorry,” Axel offered, “a little more elaboration is necessary. After my parents divorced, my birth mother also remarried. He was an army psychiatrist at the time, a nice enough man, although I didn’t have much to do with him. At first they lived just across the court from us in the same apartment complex my father and I lived in. Then they moved down south, a good day’s drive from us. They came to visit me a couple times a year, sometimes staying at a motel in town, sometimes bringing me back to their home. He never stood between my birth mother and me. I remember him always in the background. Some years later he was transferred to the Philippines. Of course my birth mother went with him. They were there three years. During that time they adopted a little girl. I remember getting a photograph of her in a letter. She must have been two years old or so. She was awfully cute. Three days before they were supposed to be rotated back to the States, my birth mother was doing some shopping in town when she was hit by a car and died. I was thirteen at the time. Her husband returned home with the infant and a coffin. She was buried in a cemetary in his home town. I never had any further contact with him.”

“That was quite a story,” the professor exhaled. “How did your birth mother’s death make you feel?”

“I was devastated,” Axel said, “but I got over it.”

“How did you get over it?” the professor asked.

“That’s the crux of the matter,” Axel also exhaled. “I never inquired into why my parents had divorced, at least not until a year or two before my father passed away. I have memories of my mother taking a switch to me when I was two years old. I remember her walking out of our house with a suitcase, getting into a cab, and driving away. I remember her coming to visit me after she had remarried, my running to wrap my arms around her waist, and her arms hanging limp at her sides. Later, after I’d studied Art History at college, I started associating her with Venus de Milo, because she had no arms to wrap around me. I assumed she never really loved me. Maybe she loved me in the beginning, but sometime afterward stopped. I assumed that might have had something to do with my father divorcing her and getting custody of me. My father always loved me, as much as I loved him. Of that, there was never any doubt in my mind.”

“So what caused you to call into question your childhood memories related to the relationship with your birth mother?” the professor probed further. It seemed obvious that this man was self-analytical to a fault. He might have made a decent psychologist, he thought, although the professor didn’t have much faith in psychologists with their talking therapies.

“A couple years before my father passed away, I took him out for a drive,” Axel answered. “We ended up driving past our old home, which Dad sold soon after the divorce. I was in my sixties at the time. Dad had recently turned eighty. I stopped the car in front of the house and asked Dad why he’d divorced my birth mother. He told me it was because she didn’t love him anymore, at least not the way he expected to be loved. I asked him what he meant and he told me she had said she loved him like a brother. Was that the only reason? I asked. Well sure, he answered, I didn’t want to be loved like a brother. I wanted to be loved like a lover, like a husband. I couldn’t wrap my brain around that. I told him married love is multi-faceted. There are many aspects to love when you are attracted to a person but, at the same time, care for her deeply like a husband but also like a father or like a brother. The existence of one aspect doesn’t preclude another aspect. Anyway, that’s why I divorced her, Dad told me, turning red. That’s the silliest reason for divorce I’ve ever heard, I said and we drove on.”

“Why did that cause you to question you childhood memories?” the professor asked Axel.

“A few years later,” Axel said slowly, “a woman came across my name on one of the social networks I belong to, quite by chance, she explained in a private message. She identified herself as the Philippine infant my mother and her husband had adopted. She confirmed the details I remembered about my mother’s second husband and the events surrounding her death. She said she had been rumaging around the attic of her adopted father’s house soon after he’d passed away. She had stumbled on a shoe box full of returned unopened letters addressed to me. She apologized for opening one of the letters but, after I told her it was ok with me, she read me the letter. The letter told me how much my mother had loved me and how much she missed me. The woman, my half-sister I guess, told me her father had talked about the divorce. He told her that my father had tricked or forced her to accept the conditions of the divorce. That was difficult for me to swallow since Dad had always been a gentle fair man, except when his back was against the wall; however, I could believe my grandfather was capable of being forceful to get his way. Dad had dropped out of college to elope with my mother, who came from a simple background, not that I cared an iota about that. My half-sister asked me what I wanted her to do with the box of letters. I told her I’d love for her to send them to me. She said she would. That’s the last I ever heard from her. I looked for her on the social network and sent her a followup message, but she never responded to me. It might be because of my political views, I don’t know.”

“So how do you think I could help you?” the professor asked.

Axel looked into Professor Palmer’s eyes and said, “After hearing Dad’s explanation about why he had divorced my Mom and then receiving those messages from my half-sister, I don’t know what to believe about my childhood up to the age of seven. Did my birth mother love me or did she not love me? How can I know what happened to me? How can I interpret what happened? How can I assimilate what happened? Were my memories my memories or were they implanted? If they were implanted, then when and by whom? The ground on which I walked as a child has disappeared from under my feet.”

After a moment the professor asked Axel, “What is it that you think I can do for you?”

“Obviously you are a psychiatrist, so you probably don’t put much stock in talk therapy,” Axel replied. “So I was thinking that, if you had experience with and access to a transcranial stimulator, say, a transcranial magnetic stimulator or a transcranial direct current stimulator, you might be able to do an fMRI of my head while showing me a picture of my mother and mapping the cells or regions that lit up. Then you could stimulate just those areas while I reported which memories popped up.”

“A nice idea,” the professor said, “but the TMS and the TDCS coils are only positioned for regions of the brain dealing with depression and other moods. Besides, what you’re asking for is a function not approved for those devices by the FDA. What you are requesting would require deep brain stimulation; which would require open brain surgery while you are conscious. Are you sure you’d want to do that?”

Axel thought about the professor’s words a long time before answering, “If it turned out that my memories were true and my mother didn’t love me, I could deal with that. If it turned out that my memorieswere false, that they were implanted, I could deal with that too. What I couldn’t deal with is thinking my mother didn’t love me when she did. It’s like a major chunk of my memory is missing, like I have amnesia, not being able to trust any of my childhood memories. So, yes, I’d be willing to undergo open brain surgery for the chance of getting back my childhood memories before I die.”

The professor tried to talk Axel out of what he considered to be a rather frivolous dicretionary but dangerous medical procedure. “We wouldn’t be able to differentiate between a true memory and a false memory; neither could we be able to tell apart a self-acquired memory from an implanted memory.”

Axel told the professor, “I’d be satisfied if you found a memory in which her arms are wrapped around me.”

The professor told Axel to go home and think it over, talk to his wife and children about it, and then give him a call if that’s what he’s decided. In any case, an elective surgery such as this would take up to a year to schedule, what with all the real life-and-death cases requiring surgery.

Axel thanked Professor Palmer for his time and patience, and promised to call him one way or the other.

*

The surgery was scheduled for 2:00 New Years morning. He reported to the hospital reception desk the day before the surgery, accompanied by his wife and children. He was assigned a private room and told to don the hospital pajamas. The nurses stuck him and probed him. He was taken to get an EEG, EKG, X-Ray, MRI, and fMRI.

“Do you still want to go through with this?” the professor asked Axel.

“Yep,” Axel answered.

“Can’t you talk any sense into him,” the professor asked Axel’s wife, glancing also at Axel’s sons.

“No,” Axel’s wife answered, her energy depleted. “Just make sure you bring him back to us, alive and functioning.”

“You know open brain surgery is never a slam dunk and Axel signed a waiver form protecting the hospital and us from any liability if the procedure has complications,” the professor said

“Yes, I know,” she responded. “He explained you wouldn’t perform the surgery if he didn’t sign the waiver. We wouldn’t sue you or the hospital if he were to wake up a vegetable, or didn’t wake up at all.”

Axel’s sons gathered closer around their mother, putting their hands on her shoulder.

A male nurse shaved Axel’s head. His wife gasped. Then she stood up and bent over him, kissing him on the cheek. “I love you,” she said. “See you on the other side.”

“Good luck, Dad,” the sons said and, one after the other, kissed their father.

The male nurse wheeled Axel out of the room and down the hall to the elevators.

*

The timeline bifurcated again, as it does every moment; afterall, we live in a quantum multiverse.

In one universe Axel’s surgery was a success in every way. The professor had stimulated a memory cell in Axel’s brain that triggered a memory of when his mother had hugged him warmly.

In another universe Axel’s surgery was a success but all the memories were of a mean cold-hearted mother who had no arms for hugging Axel.

In yet another universe Axel’s surgery was not quite successful. The young doctor assisting the professor had been handed an unsterilized scalpel. There was an infection and the inflamation spread through Axel’s brain. He went into a coma and, three days later, died; however, the professor had managed to trigger a memory of Axel’s mother hugging him. Then he lost consciousness.

Venus de Milo

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Chapter 19: Journey to the Center of the Universe

Cadmus woke up twice during his first sleeping period. Lonesome raised an eyebrow but otherwise continued snoring away. He sat up in his hammock, swung his legs over the side, and slipped down onto the floor careful not to step on his sleeping dagu.

He opened his hand against the smooth wall to orient himself and followed the ambient lighting to the personal service room. He entered and slid the door shut behind him.

The first time he tried to pass water he relaxed his bladder in one dimension but the water squirted out in another dimension. Fortunately, the inside of his suit dried almost instantaneously,

The second time he tried to pass water, a couple hours later, he couldn’t figure out which dimension his bladder was in to relax and had to wait a few minutes before his bladder, his stream of water, and the toilet were dimensionally in synch.

He made his way back to his hammock somewhat proud of himself and fell back asleep.

The next waking period, after the lights made their presence felt through his eyelids and his dreams, and the smells of spiced tea wafted into the room, Cadmus looked over at Galen’s hammock and saw it was empty. Lonesome was not under his hammock either. He got out of his hammock and hobbled stiff-leggedly over to the shower room, took off his suit and googles, put them in the bin, and stepped into the shower stall.

After refreshing himself in the shower, he dried himself off, opened the bin, and found his suit and goggles good and fresh. He suited up and donned his goggles, and followed his nose to the kitchenette where Galen was putting breakfast on the table. Lonesome was eating his kibble in a bowl with gusto.

Sleeping period followed waking period, which followed sleeping period, so on and so forth until it became a routine of sorts that belied the danger and the desperation of their adventure, three insignificant microbes rushing to the defense of a dying universe.

After a while Cadmus became so proficient in the use of his suit and goggles that he became totally unaware of them. He was able to run through the halls effortlessly jinxing one way into one dimension and another way into another dimension, moving in ways he could not have imagined before. Lonesome followed along on his jogs around the ship anticipating his friend’s moves.

Galen was pleased that Cadmus was now his physical equal, and his sensory and motor skills were on a par with his own. The way Cadmus processed his sensations was the same as always though, and that also pleased Galen.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 18: The Leap of Intent

“That box of kibble is starting to look pretty good to me,” Cadmus said to whomever might be listening.

“Sorry,” Galen said, “I’ve been remiss. Just be patient a moment longer and I’ll fix something for us to eat and drink after I get us going. Besides, it’ll be better for you if your stomach is empty during the leap.”

“What should I do? Where should I be?”

“Just put your hand over Lonesome’s goggles and close your eyes.”

Cadmus did as he was told. At first nothing out of the ordinary happened. Then there was a crescendo of rumbling. He felt a vibration in the chair. Then he felt it in his skin, his muscles, his stomach, and his bones. It was as though somebody had reached inside him and pulled his internal organs down, up, or sideways – he couldn’t tell which direction. He opened his right eye, just a squint, and saw only whiteness out the window.

The pull on his innards diminished somewhat. The vibration lessened and the rumbling turned to silence. He opened his left eye and saw Galen puttering around in what looked like a kitchenette against one of the walls. He looked down at Lonesome who was panting and smiling, seemingly ready for anything. He removed his hand from the dagu’s goggles.

“What’s going on now?” Cadmus asked.

“I’m making us something to eat.”

“No, I meant what’s going on with the ship?”

“Oh. We’ve leapt off your moon, left 763, left Draco, and are traveling on a vector toward the center of the universe.”

“Didn’t you say the Frats might be in the opposite direction if there was a big bang?”

“Firstly, the big bang is not very likely because it’s a singleton. Secondly, if the Frats are not at the center of the universe then we’ll travel to the edge and try to find them there. Thirdly, it doesn’t matter where we think they are because they will find us by our intention.”

“So why didn’t we just stay put in my cabin in the middle of a rather picturesque lake or your cave?”

“Because that would not have broadcast our intention. Besides, we are only going where we went in our future, at least until we reach the event horizon.”

“So everything is determined in advance?”

“That’s the only rational conclusion.”

“Well, I don’t think that.”

“That’s why you and Lonesome are onboard.”

“And that’s why you don’t know what I’m going to think before I think it. So how do you know what I’m going to do in the future?”

“Do you think you can come to the table without any help?” Galen asked Cadmus.

“I’ll try.” Cadmus got up from the reclining chair tentatively and tried to think himself over to the table near the kitchenette. He walked unsteadily at first until he got the hang of it. He pulled out the chair and sat down.

Galen brought over a kettle of tea and bowl of fruit, laying it on the table. He put out plates, cups, and a loaf of bread. He sat down and poured tea for Cadmus and himself. “Consciousness and thought are not the same as action and physical being,” he answered. “Consciousness and thought are totipotent. They contain all possible states. Anything non-physical can develop from them. They are only limited by the structures through which they pass, structures which they create for themselves. Action and physical being are only multipotent at most and monopotent at least. They are limited by the structures of physicality, what you might call reality, at least the part of it you are aware of.”

“Don’t I have to think of doing something before I do it?” Cadmus asked through a mouth full of bread.

“Most of what you do, you do without thinking about it,” Galen answered. “You do it automatically, predictably.”

“But sometimes I think and then I act on that thought.”

“That’s what I’m banking on.”

After they finished eating Galen took Cadmus and Lonesome on a tour around the ship.

They walked up one hallway and passed the sleeping quarters. There were two hammocks suspended between walls in opposite corners of the room. There were a shower room and a personal service room for evacuating waste products. Up the hall was a simulation room and, beside that, an audio-visual communications room.

“After I give you the tour I promised Remi I’d give her a call.”

“Can you only call her from here?”

“No, I can call her from anywhere in the ship but the visuals are better in this room.”

“What is the simulation room for?”

“For exploring possibilities.”

They walked past an exercise room, a library, a music room, a storage room, and finally they came back to the main control bridge.

“Is that it?” Cadmus asked.

“No, there’s more downstairs.”

They walked down another hall past a huge engine room, a telecomm room, and a situation room. A little further down the hall they passed a closed door.

“What’s that room?” Cadmus asked.

“The war room,” Galen answered without embellishment.

Finally, they came back to the control bridge.

Cadmus tried to stifle a yawn. “What time is it?” he asked. He hadn’t seen a clock since he passed through the portal into the ship. He remembered he hadn’t seen a clock in Remi’s and Galen’s cave either.

“Time for you to get some sleep,” Galen smiled. “Besides, where we are, your question doesn’t make much sense.”

Galen walked Cadmus back to their sleeping quarters.

Lonesome was lying in his usual heap underneath one of the hammocks fast asleep.

“Should I take off my suit and goggles before I go to sleep?”

“No, leave them on in case you have to get up to go to the personal service room. You can take the suit and goggles off before you shower. Put them in the recycle bin before you step into the shower and they’ll be refreshed by the time you’re out. The molecules maintain their programming throughout the recycling.”

“Good night Galen.”

“Yes, I suppose.”

Cadmus lay down carefully in the hammock and turned off the bright lights, leaving only the soft ambient lights in the base boards. Soon they were snoring a soft duet.

The ship accelerated two orders of magnitude faster than the speed of light, leaving behind the local cluster of galaxies, known as the Draconian super cluster, and the largest artificial structure in this part of the universe.

If anyone had been watching this pin-point speck of a ship from afar, he would have surmised that its intention was lonely but brave.

from Out of Time

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

 

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Chapter 17: I Can See

Cadmus didn’t really understand what Galen had in mind for Lonesome but, since he never went anywhere without his dagu, he felt no need or inclination to ask.

“I really don’t see how we could be of any assistance to you,” Cadmus said to Galen. “I really don’t.”

Galen answered him matter-of-factly, “I don’t know why you finally agreed to come with me, although I’ll know as soon as you think of it, but I see across the three dimensions of time all the way to the event horizon and you and Lonesome join me in this journey.”

“You see me in the future?”

“You might say that.”

“I might not say it either,” Cadmus answered. He thought the future was the set of all things that hadn’t happened yet or maybe the set of all things that might happen.

“Time is just another set of coordinates in one or more dimensions, past, present, and future. The coordinates of time may be seen as easily as the coordinates of space if you have eyes in those dimensions. We are just a bunch of meandering vectors through volumes of space-time with beginnings and ends, and continuum in between.”

“That’s the way you see us?”

“Yes. Does that bother you?”

“Well, yes. So you see Lonesome and me meandering off with you?”

“Yes. That’s what I see.”

“So what happens to us? Do we survive? Do we beat the Frats?”

“I don’t know.”

“What? What do you mean you don’t know? I thought you said you could see into the future.”

“I can only see up to the event horizon. What happens to us beyond that is farther than I can see.”

“Farther than you can see?”

“Sight is linear but time is curved. None of us can see beyond the curves of time or space.”

“I wonder whether the Frats can see beyond the curves of time or space,” Cadmus said pessimistically.

“Yes, that is the question,” Galen agreed.

“So much for the element of surprise,” Cadmus offered hopelessly.

“We would not be able to surprise them, but you might.”

“When do we leave?”

“We already have.”

“Do you mean that I agreed to go?”

“Yes.”

“Why did I agree?”

“Because you realized that the element of surprise confers a ten percent advantage for a short window of opportunity. Actually it’s only a five percent advantage.”

“Are you parked at the terminal? Shall I call us a shuttle?”

“No need. Just call Lonesome to come to you.”

Cadmus whistled through cupped hands. Lonesome came loping, ears flopping counter to his paws pulling down the hill.

“What now?”

“Can you lift up Lonesome and hold him in your arms?”

“Yes, at least I think I can.”

“Do it.”

Cadmus bent down, put one arm under the dagu’s belly while his other arm wrapped around the dagu’s flank, and tried to straighten up under Lonesome’s weight. Cadmus started to lose his balance.

Galen scooped them both up into his strong cobalt blue arms. “Close your eyes a moment,” he told a very surprised Cadmus who felt himself being flipped over. His arms thrust out instinctively trying to protect himself from the fall and Lonesome jumped out of his arms, pushing sharply against his chest, but when he opened his eyes, what Cadmus saw didn’t look anything like his island in the middle of the lake.

“Where are we?” Cadmus asked, “and what is that?”

“We’re still on your island but I had to flip you and your dagu bodily into a volume where my portal is,” Galen explained. “That structure over there is the portal.”

Galen led Cadmus over to the portal door while Lonesome tagged along behind sniffing the ground furiously. He put his hand on the door and it shimmered away. They walked through it into a large octagonal room.

The portal door shimmered closed and disappeared into the curved wall. The large windows on one side of the room were filled with strange constellations of stars Cadmus had never seen before. Through the windows on the other side, he saw a huge irregular structure where their sun, 763, should have been. It throbbed like a beating heart in shades of ultraviolet.

“What you’re looking at through that window is a Dyson hypersphere. We use it to power our portals and terminals in this solar system, and to conserve stellar fusion.”

After some time Cadmus turned away from the windows and began looking around the octagonal room they were in. “Why is the room so empty,” he asked his host.

“It’s not. You’ll see later. Anyway it’s time to get you and Lonesome suited up.”

“Suited up?”

“Yes. You first. Walk over to that scanner in the corner and remove your clothing.”

“Everything? My socks and underwear too?”

“Yes, everything.”

Cadmus did as he was told. After he had undressed the scanner powered on and moved around him slowly projecting a blue light against his skin. When it finished whatever it was doing to him, it produced a shiny blue suit through one of its orifices.

“Please put this on,” Galen said. “It is a robotic exoskeleton programmed to allow you free movement through all eleven dimensions. You’ll be able to command it verbally or, eventually, by your thoughts. It is also designed to protect you from harm.”

“Thank you,” Cadmus said looking admiringly at his arms and legs. One of the walls opposite him turned into a mirror and he admired himself fully in it. “But how can I move through the upper dimensions if I can’t see where I’m going?”

“That’s what these are for,” Galen smiled and tossed some goggles over to Cadmus.

Somehow Cadmus managed to catch the goggles in his gloved hand.

“Those are all-dimensional,” Galen explained. “They allow you to perceive all dimensions but, since your brain can’t represent more than a three-dimensional volume, they project the upper-dimensional structures into a three-dimensional representation. It’s like shining a light through a three-dimensional wire sculpture onto a two-dimensional wall.”

Cadmus put the goggles on his head and over his eyes. At first he couldn’t see anything. Then it powered on. What he saw made him nearly lose his balance and fall. He saw a room full of structures he never could have imagined before. They were positioned at impossible angles that made him queasy to look at. His hands shot out against something, anything, to steady himself to keep upright, whatever that was anymore. He removed the goggles from his head and the room became empty and familiar again.

“You’ll have to get used to them,” Galen said kindly. “After a week or so, it’ll become second nature. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea for you to move around in the suit until you get used to the goggles.”

Cadmus looked around the empty room and saw a reclining chair by one of the windows. He couldn’t move. Then he remembered what Galen had said about the suit. He told the suit to walk over to the chair by the window. Halfway there he was able to walk just by thinking about it.

Just like moving around in my body, he thought.

He sat down tentatively in the chair and put on the goggles again. The things he saw went crazy again. He watched Galen walk over to one of the consoles and press some buttons. He looked over at Lonesome, who was looking up at him from a strange angle. He was panting and sniffing the air, but he was smiling. Galen came over to the dagu and asked him whether he was hungry. Lonesome looked up at him. Galen poured some kibble into a bowl in the corner by the scanner. While the dagu was eating, Galen powered on the scanner. Lonesome didn’t seem to pay attention to the scanner moving around him or to the blue light. After the scanner and Lonesome had finished what they were doing, the scanner spit out another suit, this one for Lonesome.

Galen wrapped the two pieces around Lonesome and zipped them together. Lonesome didn’t like the idea of his suit at first and wasn’t very cooperative, but soon he forgot about it and loped over to Cadmus, lying down by his reclining chair.

Galen walked over towards them and stooped down to slip the goggles over Lonesome’s head and eyes. The dagu raised his head and looked around, sniffing.

Cadmus watched Lonesome get up awkwardly, almost falling, and walk uncertainly over to the console and sniff around it. He remembered he hadn’t seen it before putting on his goggles.

He looked up at Galen, who was standing over him and smiling.

“I can see,” Cadmus said softly, “but I’m not sure I understand what I see.”

“Time,” Galen answered, “give yourself time.”

from Out of Time

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 16: The Third Species

Cadmus was silent for a while. He looked up the hill instinctively and saw the cabin dark against the night sky. 4 should be coming up in the north soon and make everything a ghostly pale color. Galen was nearly invisible against the night even though they were standing close to each other.

“Your story has given me an appetite,” Cadmus said. “I had just gotten home when you called and arrived. I don’t know what’s in the pantry that’s edible, but why don’t I check and cook us up something to eat?”

“Sounds good to me,” Galen answered.

As they walked up the hill Draco.763.4 was just starting to come up over the craggy mountains to the north casting a bluish white light on the roof of the solitary cabin. There was a dark pile of something on the porch. Cadmus rebuked himself for not thinking to turn on the porchlight when they left.

The pile turned out to be Lonesome on the porch waiting for them to come home. Cadmus stepped carefully around the dagu, opened the front door, and felt around for a light switch in the darkness. Galen sat down beside Lonesome and looked up at the planet rise as it began to fill the night sky.

Cadmus found some powdered eggs that didn’t smell too bad. He also found some powdered soup. He couldn’t read the label on the can and hoped it wouldn’t make them sick. He poured some kibble into one bowl and water into another bowl for Lonesome.

After some time Cadmus came out to the porch carrying a tray with two plates of scrambled eggs, two cups of soup, napkins, and forks. He set the tray down beside Galen and sat down on the other side of the tray.

They ate silently, looking up from time to time at the lovely but lethal planet that seemed close enough to reach up and touch. This thought passed through both their minds, not because Galen shared Cadmus’ way of thinking about things but because all Cadmus’ thoughts passed through Galen’s mind like a nebula near a black hole.

“I would imagine you have discussed these findings and conjectures with your peers,” Cadmus continued their thread.

“Yes, of course.”

“So what did your peers conclude?”

“Our peers concluded that our enemy may be more than we are capable of dealing with.”

“Why? There are a lot of you. If you put your minds together, you should be able to come up with a strategy to defeat these creatures.”

“We know our limitations.”

“You have limitations?”

“Yes.”

“What for instance?”

“We are rational to a fault.”

“What could be the fault of rationality?”

“That it is based on the non-rational.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Rationality is the most economical, straight-forward, simplest, ethical, and aesthetical form of thought. If you want to assert something, however, that is neither totally trivial nor self-evident, you’re going to need a set of axioms underpinning your rational system of thought. Axioms are assertions that can’t be proven or questioned. Axioms are non-rational.”

“Can you speak a little more concretely so that I may follow you?”

“Imagine a rational system of thought is an edifice, a tall and vast structure, and its axioms are the ground on which the edifice stands.”

“Alright. I can see that.”

“If someone attacks an axiom upon which your rational system rests, the entire structure will collapse.”

“And you think our universe is rational and in danger of collapsing from an attack on its axioms?”

“No,” Galen said. “The universe and its physical substrata are under attack, and our ability to defend them from attack may be subverted by an attack on our axioms.”

“I see,” Cadmus said. But did he? It was all so confusing to him. Images were flying around his brain in circles. He began to feel queasy. Why had Galen come all this way to tell him these things? What could Cadmus possibly do about it? After all he was blind in all but three dimensions. Why him?

“Because you are irrational,” Galen said. “You would not be vulnerable to an attack which could incapacitate us. If we train you what to do, you could do it without thinking. We need you to come with us.”

“A two-species defense against a superior species?” Cadmus asked.

“No,” Galen answered, “a three-species defense.”

“Who is the third species?”

Galen reached over to scratch Lonesome between his ears and the dagu leaned into his hand.

from Out of Time

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

 

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Chapter 15: A Walk around the Island

Cadmus’ cabin was the only one on the island. When the door opened, Lonesome leaped through and ran ahead of them over the familiar paths he loved so much. The two men ambled down one of the paths along the edge of the lake. There was a light breeze caressing them. At least that was how Cadmus felt.

The late afternoon was turning into evening over the mountains to the south. There was no hurry so they walked in silence awhile. The dagu was nowhere in sight but he knew the way home.

“I dabble in astronomy,” Galen began. “I suppose you’d call it a hobby. I do other things too, when they need to be done, but this is what most interests me.”

“I like to look at the stars too,” Cadmus said.

“We built ‘observers’ or robotic perceivers connected with trailing Q-bit Entanglement Boxes throughout the universe. The observers allow us to observe the universe in each of the eleven dimensions all the way to each event horizon.”

“What for?”

“To obtain a composite view of our universe.”

“Sounds interesting.”

“What’s interesting are the cross-section snapshots we get every yocto-second at a resolution of 1.6 x 10−35th of a meter. The snapshot shows us what is happening and what has changed in the universe in any given time slice.”

“A yocto-second? What the hell is that?”

“It’s 10-24th of a second.”

“That’s an awful lot of data.”

“Yes, we need another universe just to store it.”

“Another universe?”

“Virtually.”

“So what do you do with all this data?”

“We usually discard it after examining it, if it’s not very interesting.”

“So did you find anything interesting?” Cadmus asked.

Galen paused and then continued, “I had fallen a bit behind, two or three time slices. I wanted to look at them before discarding them. That’s when I noticed something unusual.”

“What could be unusual in our universe?” Cadmus quipped sarcastically.

“We saw major multi-hyper-cubes near the horizon disappearing. They were there and suddenly they were not anymore. The size of each multi-hyper-cubic section was roughly the size of a galaxy containing a hundred billion stars. These cubes have been disappearing at an alarming rate.”

“So what? Even I know that matter can come into contact with anti-matter or be sucked into a black hole and disappear, and exotic matter and energy can cancel out baryonic matter and energy.”

“Yes, but although these disappearances were occurring in the far future, major sections of our future were also disappearing at an alarming rate. We may run out of future before we run out of space.

“Some of us think that the hyper-cubic disappearances might be naturally occurring phenomena, that there is something fundamentally wrong with our universe, while others think that the disappearances might be caused by an alien civilization possessing an advanced technology that it has weaponized. If the second conjecture proves to be correct, we may be up against a force far greater even than us.

“Let’s call them Future Rationals or Frats for the sake of discussion. These Frats might very well come from the oldest parts of our universe.”

“Would that be where the Big Bang occurred?”

“That depends. If there was a big bang, then reason dictates that the oldest parts would be in the outermost shell of the universe. If there wasn’t a big bang then, like most galaxies, the oldest parts would be in the center of the universe. Besides, there should have been a trace left in the substrata.”

“What substrata?”

“Reality is hierarchical. All matter and energy, exotic or baryonic, map onto a substratum, which is the fabric of space-time.”

“Every school-age child knows that.”

“You also know that the fabric of space-time can be distorted by massive matter and energy. That means that the fabric of space-time is also made of something. Do you know what?”

“We never learned that in school.”

“It’s made of fibers of vibrating virtual particles. The names are unimportant. These virtual particles map onto a more fundamental substratum, the field of consciousness. Time is the consciousness of time and space is the consciousness of space. All else is information. The field of consciousness underpins our universe.”

“This is getting a little too abstract for me.”

“I was afraid of that. I’ll try to make it more concrete for you. Parts of the universe are becoming unconscious.”

It was night now. The stars were twinkling, most of them anyway. Cadmus wondered whether any of them had stopped twinkling since the last time he looked. He wondered whether he would have noticed.

“So what? I mean the universe is infinite. You can subtract big clumps from it and it’ll still be infinite.”

“It’s not infinite,” Galen said quietly.

“Well, you can still subtract big clumps from it and there will still be a lot of it.”

“The problem is that someone or something may be causing this and it’s not one of us. We don’t have the technology or the means.”

“So you’re not guilty.”

“You still don’t get it. Whoever is doing it may be orders of magnitude more powerful than we are. It appears they are attempting to annihilate everything through an attack on the substrata.”

They could hear the water lapping against the pier.

from Out of Time

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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