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The Mindwarp: A Prelude

Cradle's Rim

by M. Darwin Christenson

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Part 2 of 3


Forget that probe! Scan for any other objects within a tenth of a parsec. Anything with a diameter greater than sixty meters.


It's right there! I can see it! I can almost touch it. How can the sensors not detect it? They detected the other probe. The probe's real. He's real. He sees it too.

It's beautiful. The crystalline shafts. The fragile shell. The unreadable depths of its center that seem both the inside and the outside at the same time. The patterns of light that draw themselves across faceted surfaces like torches in some ancient amphitheater of the mind. The gateway that beckons, open and inviting and dark but for the scintilla's of light. Tiny fireflies. Huge synaptic bonfires sparked from remembered dreams.

I feel like I'm falling into it, though all instruments indicate I'm holding position. Like standing on the bridge crossing the Toyo River back home and looking downstream as the current flows away and feeling as if the water has stopped its forward motion and the bridge is suddenly moving backward instead. Movement inward/outward/through. Falling down. Streaming up. Both. And neither.


I decided to input this by hand. I guess it feels right. There's probably some explanation for it. "Reversion to cultural past when under stress" or some other pseudo psychological garbage. The communications interrupt prevents me from contacting the man in the other probe. I wonder who he is. Where he is from. When he is from. I can't believe I'm in a position to ask such a question. For some reason, he reminds me of my father. The hair is the same. And dad was about as approachable. Sitting here, I can almost picture dad in his chair, the unendurable silence between us like the unbreachable void of empty space that separates me from my new companion.

I can see her face through the viewport. She looks sad. It's difficult to tell from such a distance, but she seems to be attractive. And young, for a pilot. I have a thousand questions I'd like to ask her if I can get the commsys working again. Rather, if that thing out there will let the commsys work again.

Leung hired Hugh Martin not because he was a brilliant thinker, although he was certainly that, he hired him because Martin could get people fired up about an idea. Right now, Martin was striding around the aisles of Conference Room 85, gesturing and talking at near the speed of light:

"Alternate realities, everyone. That's what we're talking about. Everyone knows we followed the 2355 injunction to the letter. We all saw the timewave data from the T/r Drive's navigation module. Alternate realities are the only explanation.

That probe comes from a completely different universe. In his world, there was no injunction against Leung. Leung proceeded unhampered. He finished his base on Charon and launched the probe that some poor schmuck is now sitting in twelve years before we launched our probe.

Right now, in the year 2360 in his world, scientists just like us--no, exactly like us because most of them probably are us--are sitting in a room like this one discussing the same theories. The magnitude of the things going on out there defy everything and anything we're capable of doing. But these incredible events are our future. Controlling the fabric of space and time will be like eating, breathing, and sleeping. This is exciting, people. This is why we studied theoretical physics to begin with."

Several members of the audience nodded, caught up in the zeal of the showman.

"And why did this all happen right now? Because of one fact. One fact. And that fact is this: we've proven that we can travel to distant stars. We can reach beyond the cradle of our own solar system. But we're not the first. Someone or something out there is testing us. That's what this is all about, people. A test. If I wanted to learn about another culture, assuming I had the power and inclination, I'd create a minor crisis and see how they reacted. Wouldn't you? Look at Piaget, Maslow, and Kobay. They spent their lives setting up little tests to see how people react. I believe--no, I know--that passing this test will lead to incredible adventures. And if we don't pass, we may never see what lies beyond the rim of our cradle."


I had a dream during my last down phase. A box that was also a key. I dreamed I built the box and saw the artifact open. I looked down and the box that was a key had Earth inside it. Our Earth. I heard a sound, like rushing water, and the artifact was suddenly full of suns and planets and moons. Blue-green planets. Warm yellow suns. And then ships. Marvelous ships full of fantastic creatures. Waiting to welcome me. Then the Earth in the box cried. Like a baby, it cried for joy and I cried.

I can't tell anyone about the dream. They'll think I'm insane. They'll say I have delusions of grandeur. They'll politely inform me that my mind has gone round the bend because my ships oxygen mix is wrong or my food supplements were tainted or some other damn thing and then they'll re-initialize the euthanasia failsafes and I'll never get . . . Look at me, I'm shaking . . . I've got to get a hold of myself.

>SENDING . . .

"She had a dream, sir."

One of Leung's ubiquitous aides brought him the news as he rested in bed, surrounded by chromium-blue silk pillows and framed by an oversized vidscreen displaying the current live view of Neptune from his base on Triton. Thanks to T/r technology, the view was current to within .06 nanoseconds. Leung never waited for anything he wanted.

"What did she dream?"

"She dreamed about a box. She dreamed that if she built the box, humanity could be reborn."

The aide shifted his feet. "The dream was interpreted by the Psych office."

"I'll want to see a complete transcript of the conversation."

"Yes, sir."

"Did she mention how the box should be built?"

"It's a simple design. A circuit with a light emitter, a power supply, and a switch. She said she had the materials on board."

From the NEWSNET:

" . . . Leung began proceedings today to sue the Federal government for losses incurred as a result of the 2355 injunction that delayed final development of his T/r Drive. The T/r Drive was the first and so far only viable model for controlled generation of hyperspace. The injunction made a planned Pluto/Charon mission unfeasible and forced InterStelCorp to move its base of operations to Triton, one of the moons of Neptune. Government experts continue to insist that the T/r Drive, as it was configured in 2355, was unstable and could have had unpredictable effects on tides or even the rotation of the Earth.

Aides close to the entrepreneur commented that Leung was furious over the expense and the loss of time twelve years ago, and now he claims to have proof from an alternate universe that the delays were unjustified and prevented both financial and technological advances that would now be providing a better quality of life for all the world. He will be suing for an undisclosed figure."

- End of Part 2 -

For Part 3 of Cradle's Rim

This prelude was provided by Maxis UK

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