16: Brainbox (part 3)

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16.3 Bang

Conradville, the Moon: 5 August 2122

"Changing?"

"Um, yes," Andy replied. He put his fork down and continued to chew at the 'meat' that tasted almost but not exactly like lamb. Across the table Melissa glanced from mother to boyfriend.

"Change? Skiftande?" Keifer asked. "På vilket sätt? In way, what?"

"Yes, how?" Janet persisted.

"Here." Andy produced a small sheet of printout from his shirt pocket, unfolded it and passed it to her. Across its width were five columns of figures, the first three initially positive, the latter two negative, each of which reduced steadily closer to zero the nearer they got to the bottom of the page. Not all columns possessed values in the upper rows.

"Where do the figures come from?"

"Well, mainly I checked using Black and Green Earth as we've got accurately dated and timed readings going back years for those two. Black has slowed down by a tiny amount and Green has slowed at a faster rate. Robot is speeding up at about the same rate that Green is slowing. Paradise is slowing down at about twice Green."

"And Chaos?"

"Speeding up."

"What do you think's happening, then? Ah, I think I see..."

"Hey," Keifer said, "Det blir kallt – cold, finish eating."

Janet smiled at her husband but scanned the sheet for a few seconds more before passing it back to Andy. Then, after pushing a large chunk of pseudo lamb inter her mouth, she sat back chewing, eyes focussed far beyond the close proximity of the wall, gazing into nothing for a few seconds. Andy, Melissa and Keifer glanced at each other.

"You know," Janet finally said, slowly, "it's like that asteroid set the Earth vibrating like someone hitting a large gong – and, even though it's years later, the planet is still ringing from the impact. Only speculation, of course, but it's almost as if, at the time of the disaster, the impact had somehow shattered it into separate entities, each following its own pathway or destination. Maybe Black Earth didn't get 'rung' as much as the others which is why we could only see that one for years. But the others are slowly returning to normal so we are seeing them overlaid upon the Black Earth more and more often."

"How soon before they all return to normal? To zero, using your figures?" Melissa asked.

"Less than six years, I reckon. The rate of change is more or less constant in all five cases. I'm presuming that they're going to stop when they hit zero but, if Jan's 'ringing' idea is true then they may swing the other way before returning to zero."

"More or less constant?" Janet asked.

Andy shrugged. "Yes, maybe they are affecting each other in some way I don't understand. Sometimes the readings are not spot on, which is what's making calculating the zero point far from easy."

"Jag kan aldrig förstå hur de alla upptar samma bit av utrymme," Keifer said.

"Inte jag heller," Melissa agreed.

"That, of course, is the real mystery," Janet sighed, adding, for Andrew's benefit, "He said he can't figure out how they're all in the same place."

"Indeed," Andy agreed. "Most theories say they're somehow displaced, not quite fully in the same time and space as we are. You know all that stuff about overlaid dimensions that have been theorised about but never really proven?"

"Oh, I so hate the maths on that stuff – could never get my head around it," Melissa said.

"Probably explains the shield, too," Janet added. "And that's getting weaker, we think. We're beginning to pick up faint radiation signals from the AI systems on Robot World even from here." She frowned. "A few people have suggested they are trying to communicate with us but, if they are, then we can't make anything out of it."

"So, they're all getting closer to normality," Melissa said slowly, "and, when they get here, they'll all be back in normal space-time. At the same time."

"Yes, that might an even bigger problem," Andy said.

"Varför?"

"Yes, why?" Janet repeated. "What do you think might happen at that point?"

He shook his head.

"Well?" Melissa said after a few seconds of silence from Andy.

"Bang," he whispered.


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