Preview of “Einstein’s Clone”

When Albert Einstein died, his doctors removed his brain for further study.  They’ve discovered some clues about why the man was such a genius (click here to read about that), but in the distant future the preserved portions of his brain will be put to a better use.

Some time around the year 5,000, the Earth Empire will clone Einstein.  They’ll need a man of his singular intelligence to solve one of the greatest mysteries in the known universe: how does Talie Tappler’s time machine work?

Here’s a brief preview scene from “Einstein’s Clone.”  Expect to see the full story sometime next week.

* * *

Albert sat cross-legged on the floor, still dressed in his favorite dinosaur pajamas.  He smirked, reflecting on the latest mischief he’d caused as he watched the armed guards rummaging through his things.

TAU-001 inched toward Albert, but she backed off as soon as the soldiers took note of her.  The robot fidgeted with her hands.  Her pincer-like fingers trembled, and the ticks and clicks of her internal hardware seemed to accelerate.  Her tiny scanner eyes focused on Albert, the boy she was programmed to raise and nurture; then she turned her gaze to the soldiers once again.

“Don’t worry, TAU,” Albert said.  “Father’s invested way too much money in me to risk harming me now.”

“Affirmative, Master Albert,” TAU said, a hint of uncertainty in her synthesized voice.  If Albert hadn’t known better, he might have thought the robot was nervous.

One of the soldiers dumped Albert’s toys on the floor and began sorting through action figures and miniature spaceships.  Another ransacked Albert’s bed, tossing aside sheets and pillows and slicing open the mattress with a sonic knife.  Other soldiers checked the bathroom, searched the closet, and tried to make sense of the clutter on Albert’s desk.

“Well?” the guard corporal said.

One of his men glanced up and shook his head no.

“Alright, kid,” the corporal said, pulling a blaster pistol and aiming it at Albert.  “I’m done fooling around.  Where is your math homework?”

“What math homework?” Albert asked.

“Robot!” the corporal shouted.  “Did you deliver a datapad to this room last night?  A datapad with a series of chronometric equations?”

“Affirmative,” TAU answered, her voice positively panicked.

Albert blinked innocently.  “I guess I lost it.”

The guard corporal scowled, the leathery skin of his face contorting in frustrated hate.  He lowered his weapon and put it away.  Then he snapped his fingers, and two soldiers grabbed Albert, hauling him to his feet.

Albert smirked as they dragged him into the hallway.  He hadn’t expected Father’s guards to have such a violent reaction to a missing homework assignment, but human behavior depended upon so many hidden variables.  It made people hard to predict, which was a major reason why Albert preferred the company of robots.  Still, everything the soldiers said and did helped confirm Albert’s latest theory: his math homework was not math homework at all.

Albert winked at TAU before the door slid shut.

Preview of “Mother Mars”

I’m sorry to say no story in the Tomorrow News Network series has suffered so many delays as the one I’m currently writing, and unfortunately I am forced to delay it one final time.  It requires just one more weekend’s worth of editing before it will be ready for you, my loyal readers.

So mark your calendars: “Mother Mars” will come out on Monday, April 29th.  And it’s going to be awesome.  In the meantime, please enjoy this brief preview.

2.2 Mother MarsAn android appeared on the viewlink, its silver face glinting under perfect studio lighting.  An orange planet with angry, red bruises appeared over the android’s shoulder accompanied by the words “Tomorrow’s Mars” in bold text.

“That’s not Mars,” Snu said, frowning at the image, but the other academics shushed him.

“We now turn our attention to Mars, the fourth planet orbiting a star named Sol,” the android said.  “Less than a year ago, Martian scientists discovered chronomagnetic energy and began receiving our broadcasts.  We welcome the Martians to our family of viewers.”

Some of the academics burst into cheers.  Others called for silence so they could hear what else the android anchorman had to say.  Snu continued to study the small, dusty planet that could not be Mars, could not be the lush, verdant world where he lived.

“Today is the 500th anniversary of the Martian Scientific Revolution,” the anchorman said.  “It is a time to celebrate the past and look forward to the future, so in that spirit we now bring you this special report.  Tomorrow News Network journalist Talie Tappler joins us live from the future.  Talie, what will Mars be like in another 500 years?”

On the viewlink, a creature apparently called Talie stood in the midst of a rust colored wasteland.  She looked like an Earthling, though she seemed more evolved than the current species native to Earth.  She was significantly less furry, with only a crown of curly, golden hair atop her head.  She wore a midnight blue jacket and matching skirt.  Snu could not identify the fabric, but it was obviously manufactured–not animal skin–its quality perhaps superior to even the finest Martian textiles.

There was no denying it: Talie was a primate humanoid, as alien and ugly as any other Earthling, but when she smiled at the camera, her grin conveyed a sense of arrogance that transcended the barriers between species.  Snu guessed she would fit in among the academic class.  In fact, the academic class, the highest, most esteemed segment of Martian society, might be too base and lowly for someone like her.

“Thank you, Anchorbot 5000,” Talie said.  “We here at the Tomorrow News Network usually report on the major news of tomorrow, but sometimes tomorrow is just another day, and sometimes the day after is no different.  Tomorrows and tomorrows pile up on top of each other with little to distinguish them, but as time goes by, subtle changes accumulate, causing enormous effects.

“Just a few hundred years worth of ordinary days transformed the Martian landscape into what you see behind me, but don’t worry!  One day, twelve thousand years from now, Mars will have a second chance at supporting life.”

The video cut to a shot of the vastness of space, and the camera panned to that same little, orange and red planet.

“That is not Mars!” Snu said.  “Where are the oceans?  Where are the phosphorescent jungles?  Where are the cities and orbital space stations?”

The camera zoomed in, revealing the planet’s blemished surface.  Snu’s eyes fixated on a wide, jagged scar near the equator.  “That cannot be Mars,” he began to say, but his voice faltered.  He shrank back in his chair, carefully setting down his drink.  Snu recognized that scar.  Even without the rivers that ran through it or the patches of green surrounding it, he knew that place well.

A fleet of spaceships approached the planet.  As advanced as Martian science was, it had never produced ships like these.  Snu could not imagine the costs required to launch something so big and bulky into space, much less the nine big, bulky ships the viewlink now showed.

The video cut to a shot inside one of the ships.  Snu cringed, hearing the chatter of alien voices.  Dozens of Earthlings–not the primitive brutes of today but the refined species of tomorrow–crowded around a viewport.  One of the Earthlings made a comment, and the others laughed.  A few held each other.  Others playfully pushed each other around.  A pair of embarrassed parents chased after their children, but the children were having too much fun in zero gravity.  And outside, Snu caught glimpses of that lifeless planet with its distinctive, jagged scar.  As the Earthlings gazed upon the Mars of their present with eagerness and anticipation, Snu stared at the Mars of his future with increasing dread.

Talie appeared, her legs crossed daintily as she drifted about the room.  She began to interview the colonists.  One Earthling called Mars a lifelong dream.  Another wanted to tell her relatives back on Earth that she loved them and missed them.  A third said he was an exobiologist assigned to study Martian life.  Snu gasped with hope, but the man knew of nothing more complex than bacterial life on Mars.

“Bacteria!” Dr. Kikron yelled.  “Is that all that’s left of our civilization?”

The other academics echoed Kikron’s indignation.  They shouted at the viewlink.  Their brains, visible beneath their transparent cranial domes, swelled with rage.  A few stormed off, unwilling to hear any more.

Meanwhile, Talie’s report continued, her smug smile growing wider and wider as the Earthlings landed on Mars, constructed a biodome, and began cultivating Martian soil for their own vile-looking fruits and vegetables.

“The humans of this era have a saying about their new home,” Talie said.  “They say that on Mars, you can jump three times higher and the horizon is three times closer.  This is literally true, of course, since Mars is approximately three times smaller than Earth with one third of the gravity, but it’s also a statement of the unbridled opportunities this once dead world offers.

“Reporting for the Tomorrow News Network, I’m Talie Tappler.”

A scholarly attendant rushed in, his robe and headbands disheveled, his eyes wide with fear.  “My lords!” he said.  “We’ve received word of riots in the capital city!  The people believe the world is coming to an end!”

The academics hurried off to attend to their duties.  Only Snu and Kikron lingered.  The two rival scientists glanced at each other in a moment of shared apprehension.

The viewlink once again showed the sphere of Mars, a monochrome world devoid of life.  Snu turned away.  That jagged scar in the planet’s crust–it was a canyon, the largest canyon on Mars or anywhere in the Solar System.  Decades ago, Snu had made it the subject of his first scientific research, and he’d memorized geological charts of the entire region.  According to the Tomorrow News Network, the Earthlings would call it Valles Marineris, but the ancient Martians had another name for it, a name they still used despite its superstitious overtones.  They called it the Lips of Mother Mars.

Coming January 28th

The latest edition of Tomorrow News Network comes out on Monday (January 28, 2013).  Here is a quote from Talie Tappler:

For obvious reasons, it’s hard to determine who invented time travel first.  The Acelera built time machines billions upon billions of years ago, but they got the idea from visitors from the future, and those visitors stole the technology from someone else.  Dozens of scientists have filed patents with the Intergalactic Trade Commission, each a few days before the one before, creating not only a legal paradox but a paradox in the space-time continuum.  To further complicate matters, time itself exists in constant flux, history changing and changing again without anyone noticing because our memories change with it.

So who invented time travel?  Well, the Tomorrow News Network’s top researchers found the answer…

And on Monday, we’ll find out what that answer is!  Be sure to come back and read Talie’s latest adventure: “Who Invented Time Travel?”

Preview of “Who Invented Time Travel?”

The first Tomorrow News Network story of the New Year is nearing completion.  It’s called “Who Invented Time Travel?” and will be posted on Monday, January 28th.  Here is a brief preview.

* * *

Like Dorothy caught in a tornado, Alice spun through a vortex of light, seeing colors unlike any she’d experienced before: golds more than gold, reds more than red, whites brighter than white.  A few hazy images flashed by, ranging from cavemen to spaceships.  Alice gripped William’s hand tighter.  In this chaos without warmth or gravity or common sense, he was the only solid thing to hold on to.

Then with a sickening lurch, Alice fell, landing on a mound of earth and rolling down one side.  She heard William crash somewhere nearby.

Alice didn’t know much about physics–she was a philosophy major–but she could confirm they had indeed traveled through time.  A moment ago it had been night; now she stared up through leafy greenness at a day-lit sky.

Something cracked.  William groaned.  Some critter squeaked in panic and scurried off.

“What happened?” William said.

“You tell me,” Alice replied.  “I thought you said work in the lab was boring.”

“We’re studying quantum entangled iota particles, subjecting them to identical stimuli to observe their reactions.  According to one hypothesis, tachyons might connect the iota particle pairs.”

“Okay, you were right,” Alice said.  “That does sound boring.”

Alice attempted to sit up, but her head kept spinning, going both clockwise and counterclockwise at once.  She shook her head.  That only made it worse.

She heard more of that cracking sound as William tried to move, the sound of something both brittle and moist breaking open.

“Tachyons travel faster than light,” William said, “which means they also travel backwards through time.”

“So a bunch of tacky-things exploded, and now we’re time travelers?”

“I guess.”

William didn’t say anything else.  Alice heard another moist crack followed by an astonished grunt.

“William?” she whispered.

“Are these… eggs?” William said.

Alice crawled on her hands and knees and looked over the top of the mound, only it wasn’t a mound.  It was a nest.  Alice had landed on the side, but William lay right in the middle, surrounded by shattered eggshells and thick, sticky yolk.  Several dead embryos the size of half-grown chickens oozed in the dirt.  A pair of Tyrannosaurus parents stood over William, dumbfounded expressions on their faces.

Where’s Today’s Story?

Today I was supposed to publish the tenth and final story of the year, but it’s not quite ready.  I need to take this weekend to perfect it before I can let you see it.  But trust me, it’ll be pretty awesome.  So instead, here’s a “preview.”

Cue ominous movie trailer music and prepare to read this in that movie trailer guy’s voice: In a world where time travel is possible and time travel journalism is normal, one man will see his own future and try to change it.  He will break the laws of causality, he will risk everything to save Earth from total destruction, and he make Talie Tappler cry.  On November 19th, prepare for the epic conclusion to the Tomorrow News Network series: “The Wrong Future.”  Staring Talie Tappler, Mr. Cognis, Secretary of Defense Zane Riscon, and introducing a really creepy guy named Vison Sedrin.

So on Monday, I promise the story will be here, and you guys will love it.  In the meantime, if you haven’t read “A Stranger Comes to Town” you should probably get on that.  There’s a bit of foreshadowing.

I can also tell you that next year I’ll be writing another set of ten Tomorrow News Network stories.  We’ll have more cyborgs, more dinosaurs, and more time traveling journalists.  Also, a special guest star appearance by Albert Einstein!  So follow this blog, bookmark it, or whatever it is you have to do to stay tuned.  This is going to be a lot of fun.

Update: “The Wrong Future” is now finished!  Click here to start reading it.

Preview of August’s Story

In this month’s story, we’re taking some time off.  Mr. Cognis, one of the Tomorrow News Network’s cybernetic camera people, takes his girlfriend on vacation.  Unfortunately, the planet they visit has a dark secret… one which might be worth reporting on the news.  Here’s a preview of “Mr. Cognis Goes on Vacation,” which comes out next week.

Update: The complete story and illustration will be posted on Friday, August 31st.

* * *

Mr. Cognis saw the universe in two ways.  Through one eye, he saw it as any human would, but through the other he saw as machines do: in high definition.

Homo machinae were a superior species, a perfect blending of biology and technology.  Evolution had robbed them of their emotions, but why would cyborgs need emotions anyway?

Light fingers ran along Cognis’s arm, feeling the seams between flesh and hydraulic muscle.  He enjoyed the playfulness of the touch.  Though cyborgs had no emotions, Cognis sometimes downloaded programs to simulate an emotional experience.  He and a fellow cyborg named Ms. Macnera had recently downloaded a new one called “love.”

Cognis looked at Macnera with his human eye.  Beauty was not an emotion, not something he could understand with downloaded software.  He could appreciate things for their simplicity, their complexity, or their effectiveness, but beauty was beyond his comprehension.  Yet something about the shape of Macnera’s lips, the curve of her neck, the slight motion of her chest as she breathed–something about the lines where her organic and mechanical parts met, about the cybernetic circuitry tattooed down her body, about the way light reflected off both metal and bare skin–something about her physical appearance in general fascinated Cognis.  He could not be certain, but he estimated with 87% probability that the term beautiful applied to her.

Macnera’s hand slipped over his shoulder and began exploring the contours of his chest.  When the two of them had decided to go on vacation, Cognis resisted wearing the traditional vacation attire.  Board shorts did not fit well over his augmented hips and legs, but now he was glad Macnera had persuaded him.  Wearing his usual full body-molded suit, he would have missed the subtleties of her gentle caress and the fractional increase in body temperature it produced wherever she touched.

They sat on the sands of an artificial island, the golden light of a binary star shining high in the sky.  The ocean smelled salty, a warning of potential corrosive effects to metal, yet Cognis found the smell relaxing rather than alarming.  Even the sound of waves rushing up the shore caused him no concern.

“Tell me more about Talie Tappler,” Macnera said.

“Why do you want to talk about her?” Cognis asked.

“She’s so strange,” Macnera replied.  “I heard she was there the day the universe began and will be there the day it dies.  I heard she’s traveled beyond the known universe and that she knows the future of every living creature, including herself.  I am too rational to believe in religion, but Ms. Tappler seems almost godlike.  You’ve worked with her more than I have.  What’s she really like?”

“We are on vacation,” Cognis said.  “We are not supposed to talk about work.”

“Of course,” Macnera said, snuggling up to him.  “Forget I said anything about it.”

Cognis complied and deleted the conversation from his memory banks.

Preview of “The Opera of Machines”

According to the rules, Tomorrow News Network employees are not allowed to change history.  But time traveling journalist Talie Tappler doesn’t always play by the rules.  She is prepared to risk her whole career so that a great musician can finish an unfinished opera.  Her cyborg cameraman, Mr. Cognis, is the only one who can stop her.

Here is a preview from “The Opera of Machines.”  The full story will be posted on April 16th.

 * * *

Once inside, Cognis made his way to the newsroom, the pulsing heart of the Tomorrow News Network.  Full of sleek, aluminum desks and computers, lit by pure tungsten light and the glow of approximately 900 holographic viewlink screens, the newsroom utilized the most advanced technology in the known universe.  Yet surrounding this high-tech facade were other machines, far older, tucked in shadows, built into walls, hidden in the darkest corners–cogs and gears, wheels and pendulums–keeping track of time in ways only ancient technology could.  Quietly, the giant clockwork turned, following the backward and forward journeys of time travelers, compensating for them so that as history shifted the newsroom remained unchanged.

Writers and producers bustled about, checking sources and typing scripts while technicians edited video.  A reporter and cameraman vanished in a burst of light, rushing off to cover a story in the past.  They returned an instant later, their work complete.

Cognis turned when heard the distinctive clicking of high heels.  Talie Tappler arrived a moment later, her skirt swishing around her long legs.  “Mr. Cognis,” she said, “we are in a hurry.”

“Mr. Cognis!” Macnera cried.  She ran across the newsroom, the joints in her legs buzzing and whirring, her pace out of alignment with her normal, steady gate.

“Cognis,” she said, staring at her feet.  “My dear, sweet Cognis.  I love you.”

A quick glance confirmed all the switches on her arm were in the off position.  Something was wrong, but before Cognis could say so Macnera flung her arms around him and pressed her lips to his.  The kiss proceeded so randomly, so unpredictably that it alarmed Cognis’s electronic mind.

Macnera pushed herself away.  “I’m sorry,” she said, moisture gathering under her biological eye.  “I must have overdone it.”

The whole newsroom had stopped.  Hundreds of journalists–members of species from all over the universe–watched Macnera run off toward the maintenance department.  Talie leaned against a desk, her arms folded across her chest.  Her golden hair partly obscured her expression, but Cognis recognized it anyway.  It was the one that meant she knew something he didn’t.

“What?” he inquired.

“You’re blushing,” she said.

Cognis checked.  “My heart rate and blood pressure are within normal parameters.”

Talie smirked.  “Are you sure you don’t want to go to the maintenance department too?”

“I am functioning normally.”

“Maybe you should show her how well you’re functioning,” Talie said, heading toward the spiral stairs leading to the News Director’s office.  Following her, Cognis observed Talie checking her pocket watch.

“I apologize,” he said.  “I’ve made you late.”

“I’m never late,” Talie said, twisting the dial on her watch.  The world around them swirled in impossible colors then settled ten minutes earlier.  Talie glided through time without the slightest disorientation.  She had natural talent.  Cognis, on the other hand, felt out of sync whenever he time traveled.  His cybernetic brain depended too much on the constant durations of hours, minutes, and seconds.