We met on Mars. You had been there for two years already; I was fresh out of rehabilitation. We already knew about each other, had read each other’s files. You were an expert in highly optimized tolerance. I had seen your picture, but I had never realized you were handsome until I saw you in person. You weren’t clean-shaven, but neither did you have a beard. This is supposed to be the mark of a man who makes a good boyfriend but a bad husband.
It took twice as long to get to the third deck from the first as it did to get to the first deck from the fifth. Alice was quite certain there was no mechanism in existence capable of adding fractional decks to the ship, and so was chalking this up to another aspect of the ongoing computer malfunction. She supposed a way to validate this was to ask that the elevator stop at, say, deck two-and-five-sixteenths, but she also didn’t want to encourage the computer’s departures from reality any more than necessary.
Things began to go badly for the crew of the USFS Erwin around the time Dr. Marchere’s coffee mug spontaneously reassembled itself. Dr. Louis Marchere was not, at that moment, conducting some manner of experiment. Well, he was, only not on entropy and the nature of time. He was running several other tests, of the kind that make perfect sense on a scientific vessel such as the Erwin. About half of them were biological in nature, concerning how small samples of cellular material react to certain deep-space factors.
You’re hurrying along a muddy path, part of a jostling crowd. The commotion around you compels you to scramble to keep up. As your eyes adjust to the dim light of early dawn, you see everyone is laden down with possessions: a baby wrapped tightly against the chest of its mother; a bulging bed sheet filled with clothing ballooning over the back of a middle-aged man; a washbasin filled with lychees and breadfruit cradled in the arms of an eight-year-old girl.
Start with a romance: a man and a woman who are wildly and irrevocably in love with each other. Or two men. Or two women. Or two people, because life is beautiful and complex. Just know that these Lovers are important. The fate of the galaxy rests on their shoulders—because, of course, the fate of an entire portion of known space can be determined by two people in love. The laws of physics are remarkably vulnerable to the laws of love.
Vivian sat at a café opposite Cass. Everything around her had a gritty, dingy quality. Even Cass looked run down, their face deeply tanned and distressingly wrinkled. They were old now, many decades past being the child that Vivian remembered. She looked down at her hands, so different than the black shadows that she’d grown accustomed to seeing during all her years as a Shade—the skin was covered in age spots and hung loose on the bones.
The air over Chicago was thick with drones. There were at least two dozen I could see from the beach. Most were small, no more than slow-moving specks against the clouds, probably simple reconnaissance units. But at higher altitudes the big Venezuelan military birds prowled, formidable machines the size of Buicks. They moved through the sky with purpose. I had the suit zoom in on one, high over the lake.
You asked me once if I had any favorites, and I asked you which of your sons you most loved. Do you remember? It was when I was on your radio show, the one where between the music you interview machines. Do people ever listen to this show? I do. I like hearing how the other machines think, what they’re building, what’s next. I hear the tiredness in their voices. I wonder if you do too.
The notion of the quantum mirror was first floated by two graduate students (Sapna Gupta and Mark Shaw) over a fourth round of beers in a small pub in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and therefore one should consider the role of intoxication in its initial conception. This is not to say that the notion itself was a foolish one; the subsequent procession of events should be sufficient proof that it was not.
With the right overlays, the city was charming—apartment buildings done up like giant row houses, seamlessly blending Victorian and modern sensibilities, boutiques and cafés on tree-lined streets, parks bathed in sunshine. Vivian Watanabe had lived on this block, once, in a high-rise apartment painted cornflower blue with trim in teal and white. She couldn’t see it now, not the way she used to.