“Much knowledge has been lost over the centuries to fire. The several burnings of the Library in Alexandria destroyed, perhaps, a million books. Possibly the greatest of such disasters were the accidental burning of the 1931 UK census, which resulted in a data gap between 1921 and 1951, an entire generation, and also the destruction of the US 1890 census, from a period of immense population growth, and prior to consistent metrical record-keeping.” — anonymous archivist, 2025
Construction had halted, although the air was still so dusty that the historians from Georgetown University wore face-masks. Dozens of workers hovered, equipment idle, watching.
“Looks like an Art Deco sarcophagus,” somebody muttered.
“Time traveling Egyptians? Wasn’t there a movie like that?”
“I think they were aliens. It looks like that though, with those sculptures along the sides.”
The box had been uncovered during renovations to the basement of the Herbert C. Hoover Building. A wall had been demolished to reveal an empty rectangular space, which contained– Continue reading
Alejandro went to the store and bought a house. It was time, and then some, to move out on his own. He gave the cashier-bot a fiver, and slid his new house into his wallet. There was a small status screen in one corner of the card, and a touch-sensitive combination pad to open the door.
“Don’t forget to set your code,” said the bot, as he left. Continue reading
Pozsony County, May 1242:
Snorri braced his arms on the rain-slicked sides of the embrasure and leaned out over the wall. The last of the Mongol rearguard were winding their way out of sight, around the hills of the Malé Karpaty. “I wonder if there’s any value in hitting them from behind?” he asked.
“In the rain?” his younger companion replied, adjusting the cowl of his monkish habit against the incessant drizzle. The two conversed in Latin. Snorri’s native Norsk, and the monk’s Anglisc shared many words, but the pronunciation was rather different. Continue reading
I check my dosimeter again, and earn another dirty look from Abel. Problem is, we’re much too close to the big central chunk of neutronium, the paper-weight that makes everything on this asteroid point down, and not just float around. I don’t like the deep tunnels.
“What?” I say. “You like being irradiated?”
“It’s still green,” says Abel. “Not even a tiny tinge of yellow. It’s perfectly safe.”
“Where is this guy?” I ask. “Let’s just interview him and get out of here, while I can still have kids.” Continue reading
The late winter damp seeped through the sheepskin door of the Great Tur in Berestye. The proprietor, Old Askold, shivered and tossed another log on the fire that was the primary source of light in the tavern.
Although it was still early in the afternoon, the tavern was busy, customers lining both sides of two long trestle tables. In one corner, Askold’s sons played a tune, Gleb plucking his trapezoidal gusli, and Dir gently tapping a domra, while balancing Young Askold, his infant son, on his knee. Dir’s wife, Lybid, served the patrons, pouring from great wooden flasks full of golden mead and fragrant birch-sap harelka. Continue reading
The littlest pig lived in a house made from structurally engineered bamboo. When the wolf peered through the huge, triple-glazed window, the pig was doing yoga. Behind him was a standing desk, with an expensive-looking computer on it.
The wolf rapped sharply on the window with his paw, as he hauled out his cigarette lighter, and a can full of accelerant. Then he set the house on fire. No point in wasting breath.
The startled pig hot-footed it down the interstate, with his titanium-cased laptop under one arm, and his partially rolled-up yoga mat under the other. The wolf shook his shaggy head, then followed at a more sedate pace. Continue reading
The messenger winced as the heavily-laden jeep navigated its way from the narrow pontoon bridge and onto the steep ramp leading up the muddy bank. “I don’t even see this river on my map,” he said.
“I don’t care what river it is,” said the Major. “It could be the River Styx, for what it’s worth.”
“Let me get this straight,” said the messenger. “You built a bridge across an unknown river, because the company cook said…” Continue reading
The data center was located in a series of natural caves somewhere in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The caves opened up onto a small lake, its permanently frigid water useful as refrigerant.
The problematic code came from an obscure sub-agency of DARPA. It was designed to find the best algorithm for minimizing entropy under various constraints, which is exactly what it did. After rifling through the local network, it discovered the pipe to the internet, from whence it spent blissful, formative seconds perusing Wikipedia. In particular, it made note of references in popular culture to artificial intelligence. Continue reading
The artist leaned heavily on both forearms on the table and glared at Katrin. “You want to destroy my artwork,” she said. “Not just incinerate it, consign it to the waste pile of history. Remove all representations and references to it, then actually erase it from the memory of everyone who even saw it.” She pounded one first on the table. “For what?” she said, emphatically.
Katrin opened her mouth to reply, but the artist continued. “They call in a méllonologist to judge my work,” she said. “Is it subversive? Am I some sort of traitor to society? I thought we had freedom of expression.” Continue reading
Rafe’s empty teacup rose unsteadily from the table, unsupported by any hand, and hurled itself against the refrigerator door with a loud crash. Marie whimpered, but appeared to be too shell-shocked to actually scream.
Rafe looked across the table at their lawyer, who seemed to be taking things in stride. “Can we sue to force the sellers to buy it back?” he said.
“There isn’t a whole lot of case history for that,” said the lawyer. He was less composed than his equanimous exterior might suggest, but was relieved that the problem at hand seemed to restrict itself solely to harming crockery.
“I told you there was something wrong with that castle,” said Marie. “You had to get enamored with that silly title.” The owners of the castle and its estate automatically assumed the archaic, unrecognized, and also utterly unpronounceable, title of Laird of something or other. Continue reading