Flash Fiction: Scratching at the Gate


I’m working in my lab on a new project, perhaps the most dangerous I’ve ever done, you see. I’m working on a test of one of my ideas, a theory on the fundamental structure of reality, not mere physical laws and constants, but the very logical structure of the cosmos. I’m working on the root foundation of the nature of causality itself and how that impacts non-linear time-travel.

I’m working on paradoxes. I’m working on how to make them possible.

My left arms, all three of them, curl about each other holding a set of tools while my right arms do the work of bio-welding parts, of adjusting machine parameters. Because I feel like showing off, even with no one else around, I switch arms for holding and wielding tools. I purr contentedly as I make the final tweaks before checking the results…so far everything is satisfactory. The femtodrones are doing their duty nicely as the parts self-assemble, atomic nuclei fusing into the proper mix of elements to power the device internally. Banks of the smallest fusion piles ever built, each smaller than a biological cell.

Done. After months of theoretical and engineering work, it’s finally done. Done, and now, online.

I open the virtual interface with the device as I look at the system specs and decide what to do. The thought occurs to press that tiny blotch of color to the left. Why not?

A finger reaches up, the sand-papery feel of an otherwise intangible display console tells me what I want to know as the device comes alive. An alarm goes off. Oops. Alright, maybe not what I want to know…

Oh, dear. This won’t do. Not that button. I meant to push the one next to it. Oh, flurz!

I think to look at a feed of goings-on outside the ship. Nothing. Nothing and no one. Not even on the world below, I note. No signal traffic. No orbital traffic…

The lab walls go transparent as I behold the planet below. No cities, just forest everywhere. Not even ruins. Only the edifice housing the planetside lab is intact. I do a quick scan. No one. Anywhere, as if they didn’t exist.

*Hiss!* *Yeowrl!* Paradoxed. Erased as though they never were.

No people, no civilization, but there’s this ship, within the Engine’s protective field effect. That must be why I can remember them, why I survived.

I’ve still got this ship to get around in, and a world full of unused resources to tap into. But my species is gone, and the Engine is fused beyond repair. I can build another, better Engine once I set up the manufacturing facilities in orbit and the droids to supply them from the surface.

That will do.

Maybe I can bring my species back. But a quick check of the equations reveals a “no” answer. Not until I can find some loophole in the theory that allows me to reverse the paradox precisely, and, as I look sadly at the melted casing of the Engine, build another that doesn’t destroy itself from just one use.

In the meantime. I need to find an assistant, a herald, a helping set of hands around the lab. I also need to find peers I can relate to, those who like me have lost their own species.

I sit back in the pilot’s couch and maneuver the ship out of orbit for an interstellar jump. I don’t want to take the planet with me by jumping in a gravity well, so I set travel distance to 1000 diameters out from any nearby large masses.

I’m not worried right now, as I’ve got time.

All the time in the universe.

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