Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Stacking the Deck"

This poem came out of the September 4, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired and sponsored by Stephen Laird.  This poem belongs to Schrodinger's Heroes, and you can explore that project using its menu page.

Stacking the Deck

Ash stared at the dark screen
which stubbornly refused to restore,
and at the little red light
which stubbornly refused to go out.
"Alex," she said carefully, "we have a problem."

Alex left her station to look over Ash's shoulder.
"Okay, what happened here?" she asked.
"I was working out an issue
with customer service in Mumbai," Ash said,
"when the viewscreen went dead and
the temporal interference warning light went on."

"... in Mumbai, India?" Alex clarified.
"That's right," Ash said.
"I don't think they have
a superconducting supercollider over there,"
Alex said, shaking her head.

"Neither do I," Ash said, "but it's not just
tech support  jobs going overseas.
Some of the serious research is also going
to places with more ... flexible regulations."

"Shit," said Alex.
"Exactly," said Ash.

So they searched "time engineering India"
and that turned up nothing but job ads.
Then they tried "temporal engineering India"
which got them a lexicon.

"This looks like the early glossary from steam power,"
Alex said grimly.  "It's mostly about
explosions and lab accidents and
how things could go horribly wrong.
There's not much nuance yet."

"Shit," said Ash.
"Look at this."

extra-temporal object (ETO)
     (noun) object out of its time of origin

"They're moving things, or trying to move them,
through time as well as space," said Ash.

epn (EPN)
     (noun) "Ever Present Now," what sets 'time' for all
     of matterium/continuum

Alex's finger trailed down the screen.
"They seem to have discovered the manifold,"
she observed, "and here, this isn't far from
our concept of eigenvector  vs. andervector."

     (noun) the temporal point of interest
        1)  All objects have an 'O Frame' describing the
        time and place of origin.
        2) All objects/beings have a 'C Frame' describing the
        current time and place of location.

"That also sets up the distinction between
core and alter versions of an object or being,"
Ash added, "but I don't think they've noticed that part."
"Thank god for small mercies," Alex muttered.

"On the other hand," Ash said in a darker tone,
"they have extrapolated the technique for destroying reality.
Let's hope they haven't figured out the mechanism  yet."

     (verb) inserting an element into the target temporal field explicitly
     to cause a 'rupture.' Thought to be a key 'temporal weapon' potential,
     the 'fracking'  of a 'stack,' linguistically, has the highest level of
     fear component within the temporal industry.

"That is not good at all," Alex said.
"We need to do something about this
before they blow up our world from the inside out."

"Well, there's a reference to that too," Ash said.
"Remember the last time you shorted out the generator
and said you wished that reality had an 'undo' feature?"
"That was a joke," Alex muttered.
"I wouldn't tamper with spaciotemporal stability
just to save myself a little embarrassment."

"How about to save the world?" Ash said.
"Because that's pretty much what we need to do."
She pointed at the relevant entry.

     (verb) - duplicating the 'frame' of the target temporal field by inserting
     an 'extra-temporal object' (ETO).

Alex scribbled quantum equations on her tablet,
then cross-referenced them to Ash's elegant programming.
"So basically," Alex said, "we need to create a backup drive
for reality, with an autosave feature that will jump in
and 'undo' any spatiotemporal damage those guys might cause."

"Basically, yes," Ash said.
Alex looked out the window toward the horizon where,
somewhere out of sight 17.2 miles away,
the other side of the Ring curved through the Teferact compound.
"I think we're going to need a bigger server," she said.

The corner of Ash's mouth quirked into a smile.
"Then we'd better get to work," she said.
So they correlated the data from previous incidents
with different andervectors, lost time travelers,
incursions and excursions involving alternate dimensions,
and all of their other adventures with the Teferact
through which they had begun to map the manifold of spacetime.

A careful search for pockets of unused but usable reality
eventually revealed a surprise.
"There's already a backup drive?" Alex said.
"Evidently so," Ash said.
"We just have to create a connection to it."
She paused, then continued.
"Also there seems to be an indication
that the autosave function isn't perfect."

"Then I guess we don't have to worry
about losing our jobs," Alex said.
"Let's get to work on that connection.
I don't want to gamble on some unknown lab team
being slow to stir up trouble."

"I'm not much of a gambler," Ash said.
"I believe in counting cards and stacking the deck."
"Good plan," Alex said.

"That's funny," Ash said abruptly.
"I thought I saw a watermark for a moment,
but then it disappeared."

Her copper-toned fingers danced over the keys,
and a transparent image the size of a dime
appeared in the lower right corner of the screen.
The "loading" hourglass flared red,
and the image winked out again.

"Why would anyone bother to hide
a piece of World Wide Web clip art?"
Alex wondered.
"Spider Grandmother works in mysterious ways,"
Ash said, still typing.

They searched for a while longer, but
discovered nothing more about the enigmatic emblem
or the source of the manifold's backup system.
Still, Alex could not shake the impression
that they had stumbled into something
much, much larger than it seemed.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, writing
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