“You sort out that anomaly yet?” asked Dr. Dickerson. Dr. Malthora looked up from the computer monitor and frowned at him.

“No.”

“What’s the problem?”

“Every time we try to subtract out the anomalous signature, we end up losing some of the good data.”

“Which correction algorithm are you using?”

“Yerkes-Hamilton.”

“Hm…that should work for a K-anomaly like that…”

“Yeah, I know that.” Malthora frowned again and took a sip of his espresso.

“You’re gonna get an ulcer drinking that stuff.”

“I’m going to get an ulcer working here no matter what happens. Ah! There! It’s done!” Malthora peered blearily at the screen, and Dickerson joined him. In a blank white window on the monitor, a skein of colored particle traces swept downwards, followed by a second, differently-colored tangle. Then, a hideous neon-magenta trace descended. Malthora, who had been preparing to take another sip of espresso, dropped his cup. Dickerson took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes, put his glasses back on, and fainted.

(more…)

Advertisements

The old man wandered down from the hills and into the city. He had about him that air of backwoods backwardness that makes city-folk so uncomfortable. After he’d walked a good ways, he sat down on a bench near Benton Park and watched the pedestrians go by.

 

As he watched them run from one destination to another, the old man’s worn brow creased with confusion. His head swiveled as he watched the young people dashing to and fro. A few cars raced by on Benton Road, and the old man seemed quite confused by these as well. He stroked his long, gray beard thoughtfully, and pulled down his furry hat against the chill December wind.

 

He’d been sitting there for about twenty minutes – occasionally attracting confused looks of his own from the people who jogged by him – when, suddenly, the clock on the tower at the corner of the park struck one. It gave one rapid chime; not a bell-chime, but a sharp, electronic sound with a tin edge that sounded like two pieces of tinfoil brushing against one another. The man stared up at the clock, and was still staring long after the chime had faded. His eyes were drawn to the letters “CTk,” which were printed very large on the clock’s face.

 

After a while, the old man got up from the bench, re-adjusted his hat, and crossed through the park to a little restaurant he’d seen on his way into the city. He followed the sidewalk past the wooded back corner of Benton park and found the diner, called “UpStreet.”

 

Inside, people chattered loudly over hamburgers and hot dogs. The old man’s eyes widened with surprise as he listened to the great rapidity with which they talked. All of their sentences seemed to be compressed into long, rambling single words.

 

“DadHadAnotherHeartAttack…” overheard the old man as he passed an overly-chipper couple. He seated himself at the counter and yanked a napkin out of the dispenser to wipe his cold nose with. As he did, the waitress flitted over, regarded him with concern and confusion, and disappeared again. As she trotted – actually, it was more of a jog – away, the old man looked up to make his order, but by then, she had hurried off to another customer. The old man cast a weary look in her direction, and waited for her to return.

 

She did so suddenly, hopping up to the counter with her little pad and pen already in hand.

 

“HelloSirWhatCanIGetYou?” It took a moment for him to figure out just what the woman had said, and in that time, she began to tap her foot impatiently. The tapping seemed too rapid, and it made the old man uncomfortable.

 

“I’d like a cheeseburger, dear.”

 

“ThankYouComingRightUp.” He sighed at her when his back was turned and closed his eyes, massaging his temples with the tips of his fingers.

 

Suddenly, the door flew open behind him, and a pair of young women burst in. The old man ducked, thinking that only a pair of stickup-artists would throw a door open that violently, but the women simply galloped over to a booth in the corner and began talking excitedly. By now, the old man looked very bewildered, and extremely ill at ease. He took off his furry hat and started idly picking at the lining.

 

Suddenly, his cheeseburger arrived. The waitress practically threw it at him, and slammed a bottle of water on the counter next to it, then hurried off again. He took a cautious bite, made a face, and put the burger back down, then attempted to flag down the waitress. She already had the irritated look on her face when she drew up to the counter.

 

“YesWhatCanIDoForYou?”

“This burger is cold,” complained the old man. In the time it took him to say that, the waitress’s indignant look deepened.

 

“IfItWasHotYou’dHaveToEatSlow!” Before he could reply, she was off yet again. His appetite somewhat diminished, the old man slapped a five-dollar bill onto the counter and left without collecting his change.

(more…)

“I hate Sunday evenings.”

“Why?”

“It’s the beginning of another cycle…”

“What do you mean?”

“Well…every Sunday evening, I’m reminded that this is the last week of my life.”

“What!?”

“Well, look at me…on Monday morning, I go to work…I work the whole week, doing nothing of particular importance, waiting for the weekend. On the weekend, I mow the lawn, clean the house, and on Sunday, I watch football on television and dread the coming day…it’s all the same…it might as well be the same week, repeated over and over. And so it’ll go, until I have a heart attack and die. This is, for all intents and purposes, the last week of my life.”

“Damn, you’re pessimistic…what if you live to retirement age?”

“Well, then I’ve got two weeks left: the first working, then dreading the coming work week; the second sitting in a chair watching television, reading, and waiting for death. I’ve got at most, two weeks to live.”

“How depressing…”

“Yes, but if you think about it, now your brain tumor doesn’t seem so unfair, does it? I mean think about it: you’ve got six months to live! You can do anything. Go skydiving, quit your job, spend all your money…the healthy people are the unlucky ones.” And with that, the oncologist left the examination room.

Joseph stared into the microwave. As it hummed along, he liked to imagine that it was singing to him. A thousand times, he’d tried to place the tune it was singing, so he could sing along, but to no avail.

Beep! Beep! Beep! it chirped. He opened the door and plopped his now-warm scone onto a plate. As he hunted in the refrigerator — which, incidentally, seemed to sing a different tune — for the jam, he glanced at his watch. Not much time until he had to leave.

Slathering jam on his scone, he smiled. Nothing like a warm scone on a Friday morning. He took a bite, made a face, and then dumped the lot into the garbage, wiping a fleck of greenish mold from his lips. Nothing like a moldy scone on a Friday morning. He grabbed his keys and his briefcase and headed out, locking the door behind him.

(more…)

Since time immemorial, ships of all descriptions have been referred to by the English pronoun “her.” Until January of 2013, this was little more than an unusual custom, a probable holdover from a time when English was still part of another language, one with gendered nouns. But in the first month of 2013, after the Navy finally launched the long-awaited USS Eve, that once obsolescent custom took on a new meaning.

Eve was the second-largest aircraft carrier ever constructed, after the USS Raymond Keyes, built the year before. At 2,800 feet long, however, she was still very impressive, even in an era when all military vehicles seemed to be getting endlessly larger. Three nuclear reactors. A whole slew of guns. A conning tower that looked like a little skyscraper. A flight deck so long that some of the crew swore that you could see it curve along with the curvature of the Earth. An incredibly imposing ship, indeed. The pride of a nation.

(more…)