"Anomalous Test Results"
Oranaan was fascinated by
reports of anomalies around
the Empire, and traveled to where
they were said to occur more often.
People said it was a mad quest.
Certainly it was dangerous.
Despite accusations of thrill-seeking,
he wasn't in it for the excitement;
he was in it for the knowledge.
Oranaan wanted to know what
the anomalies really were and
how they worked and why they
did what they did, and he couldn't
learn that without studying them.
He went to a time crystal mine,
where anomalies were such a threat
that a man could get rich working there
for just a few months -- if he survived.
Oranaan found a deep niche in the stone
where he could set up a small observatory.
He had a theory that the anomalies were
more inclined to drift along the line of a slope
than they were to pass through solid rock.
He used boxes hung overhead and
catapults positioned on the sidelines
to hurl baskets of flower petals or fruit
or live insects or other organic matter
into the air when an anomaly occurred.
This made him unpopular with the workers.
Oranaan did discover that this method
could reveal a crude outline, though,
because all that touched an anomaly
would wither into dust in an instant.
The workers realized that this gave them
a better chance of avoiding certain death,
and became suddenly fond of the scientist.
One time, a single flower turned into
fully ripe fruit instead of dust. Oranaan
never found out why, and he never
managed to replicate that result.
Anomalies were impossible, inexplicable,
an insult to all that was right and proper,
a glitch in the matrix of science itself.
Oranaan loved them anyway.
* * *
Oranaan is a scientist in the Southern Empire.
"The Anomalies" (in the South) or "the Others" (in the North) are dangerous temporal distortions. Most Northerners can see them; most Southerners cannot. But it's the Southern technology based on time crystals that creates them. Normally anomalies destroy everything they touch, and time crystals can too if not handled very carefully. Mix anomalies with a time crystal mine, however, and very weird temporal effects may occur.