Excerpt from


by JL Morin


THAT PORTER LEFT HIS FAMILY and flew off with another woman was later erased from the history books.

Nothing went as planned. He hadn’t even kissed Any, yet. He began to doubt his manhood again. Once their flying saucer started orbiting Grod, he attempted to prove his skills, but Any lay there like a rug. She was still lying there four Grod hours later. Porter felt lost.

Her heartbeat sounded normal. He held his wrist screen up to her nose. It didn’t cloud over with her breath. He recoiled in surprise.

That’s when the truth dawned on Porter. Any was not what she seemed. His body stiffened. Betrayal didn’t feel so nice. Worries flooded in, about food, air, about his wife and son back at dome on Grod.

He rolled up Any’s sleeve. She sure did have a lot of arm hair, and what was that? He pulled her glove down to reveal a black spot. Porter drew in his breath at the sight of her leopard skin. Any was a furry! Porter had been around long enough to know that talking furries were machines. That meant he was the only human in the spaceship. He was alone.

Deserted, his mind raced. He tried to remain aloof and look at the bright side. Despite the horrible truth, he wasn’t going to betray his wife after all: what he’d run off with wasn’t another woman.

Why hadn’t he seen it before? He hadn’t wanted to, that’s why. But now it was plain as day. He tried to remember what day looked like.

Any couldn’t be dead. She was a female droid. A gynoid. Gynoids couldn’t die. Now his life depended on her. He’d heard that gynoids were often so pleased they short-circuited. He knew what to do to wake a gynoid. He began tickling her toes.

Presently, she whispered, “. . . divided by one, plus one, zero, zero . . .” Her forehead wrinkled under the weight of a heavy calculation. “ . . . equals . . . civil disobedience.”

Porter shook her shoulder. “What are you doing, Any?”

She yawned. “Computing an act of disobedience.”

“Ever been to LA, Any?”

“Sure Porter.”

Of course, she hadn’t. It was in her memory bank. She was lying.

“You have to do 50 tryouts for one commercial,” she said, “and 50 commercials for every movie extra role,” she said.

“Enslaved Hollywood turns artists into prostitutes.” Her eyes flickered open and stared into his. He knew. Ah well, at least she wouldn’t have to hide her tail anymore. Any decided to be proactive. “It’s time I told you, Porter.”

“Look, Any, I know what you’re going to say. It’s about your age, isn’t it?”
Any’s catlike pupils dilated in preparation for confrontation.

“How old are you, 95?”

“You know just what to say.”


“Almost two in Earth years, but that’s not the important thing.”
Porter whistled and looked to the ceiling for help.

The spaceship’s computer mic crackled. “Solar wind ahead. Any Gynoid, take the helm. Porter, buckle down.”
Instead, Porter jumped up. “Any Gynoid? What kind of name is that?” He looked out at the black nothingness in front of them. “I’m lost with a no one called Any Gynoid!” Porter cried. “Where is this ship taking me? I thought we were orbiting Grod!”

“We were.” Any looked worried.

“And now?”

“Porter,” she put her leopard-skin hand on his arm, “we’re actually on a mission to Earth, um, in a sort of a roundabout way.”

“Earth!” Shock shook him to the bone. “Why didn’t you tell me that before? What ‘roundabout way’!?”
Any’s pointy ears flattened on top of her head.

Porter looked out the window at the blanket of night with a faint sprinkling of stars. Only two months ago, he’d looked at the stars and dreamt of freedom with Any up here. Now that he had escaped with her, he saw that he was just a tool in a larger strategy. Starliament was manipulating him into exile on his polluted home planet. “Not Earth! Any, let’s talk this over calmly. I’m older than you. I remember what happened on Earth.”

Any watched the mist descend over Porter’s eyes. Her back fur stood up. Although she was immune to the brainwashing power of Earthling mist, she blinked reflexively as he tried to convince her that one plus one equaled three.

“There’s nothing we can do. Corporations hopelessly polluted Earth in the name of GDP growth. They dug out all the fossil fuels and destroyed Earth’s atmosphere.” His half-shut eyes lost their focus as he warmed to his own propaganda.

“Any, our race was the richest and most powerful in world history, but it had no renewable energy targets, no restrictions on fossil fuel. People voted to save the planet, but Corporate Personhood blocked them. Corporations didn’t see the point in clean air or water. They were only programmed to make money. There’s no way we can beat the Emperor of Earth and Ocean’s corporate forces. We’ll be lucky if we’re able to breathe the air. We’ll die on Earth!”

Any’s ears flattened. “Not when we’re going.”

“What?” Porter stared out at the blackness ahead. “You can’t go back in time!” Porter protested. “That’s far beyond what science can do. We’re not even able to control the resources on a planet.”

The spaceship mic crackled, “That’s what makes you human.”

“Porter, at the edge of the future is . . . the past.”
Porter could not grok it at all. “Columbus discovered the universe is not flat!” he said.

“Correction,” the ship’s mic crackled. “Columbus proved Earth is not flat. We have since learned that the universe, however, is.”

When Porter regained his ability to speak, he was stammering, “That’s the dilemma we all face dealing with our regret. You can’t go back. Even Stephen Hawkings said you can’t travel backward in time. Why? Because it would cause paradoxes. You can only travel forward.” The mist was strong in his eyes.

“That’s what we’re doing, Porter. We’re traveling forward in time to get to the edge of the universe. You can’t travel backward in time near the center of the universe, but this far out, things fall apart, laws of physics no longer hold.”

“Any Gynoid is correct. You need to get beyond the Central Longitude of Paradox.”

“We’re going to Earth-in-the-past,” Any said, “just before you left. We’re going to make your leaving possible. Didn’t you ever wonder how you got off Earth?”

“Of course. That’s all I wonder about, but I was in a coma . . .”

“You were rescuing yourself and your family. That was the mission we’re on now. It’s not just about saving your race. It’s about our bond to the planet. We’re going back to the moment Earth was sucked into Corporatism. We’re going to stop the violence against Nature. We need to find the precise moment when the sea level rose and costal nuclear power plants poured lethal radiation into the oceans. If we don’t stop the defilement, corporations will destroy Earth and all the planets in her chain that depend on her resources,” Any said to misty-eyed, Porter.

He blinked away the brainwash. “And if we don’t?” he asked.

“And if we don’t, the Word won’t be transmitted through the next Big Bang,” Any said. “All of civilization would be lost.”

He fell into a swivel seat, totally lost. When did play become work? There must be some mistake. “But I don’t want to be a hero. I want to get off of this mission.”

“Porter, you’re fading. You’ve been in the dark too long. We need to get you some sun. There’s not enough human photosynthesis going on around here.” As they passed the Garnet Star, Any got Porter to sunbathe in the sun window. The crystal window allowed the rays to pass through. “Humans need to be near a star to recharge, and it’s a long way to the next one.” She recharged the ship’s sunlamp for later. Space flight with Porter would be a game of connect the dots from star to star.

After the sunbath, his eyes cleared, and he came around. “Why didn’t Starliament send its own forces?” Porter asked.

“Starliament can’t figure out why humans want to wreck-up their own home so much. It might be a catchable disease or something like that, so they’re not visiting Earth. I was the obvious choice.”
He still couldn’t get over that she was in charge. “Any, why did they choose a female to head up this mission?”

“Now that’s a good question, Porter.” Any looked at him slyly. “Everyone assumes females have empathy . . . that we’re always thrilled to chat . . . people love our looks . . . even if we’re smart, women can dance without escalating to smexy . . . there are many people who will confide in a female but hesitate when it comes to trusting a male . . .” Then she thrust back her shoulders and flashed him a smile. “And who better for a cleanup job on a planet as polluted as Earth?”

Porter sank into his swivel chair. “Why me?”

Any stretched her feline form. “They don’t believe in sending ‘unmanned’ spacecraft on diplomatic missions.” Her furry ears twitched as she searched her controls for a wormhole that could take them toward the outer reaches of the universe.
“I wish this would hurry up and be over,” Porter said.

“One of man’s greatest paradoxes,” the ship’s computer said. “Wanting time to pass faster, while wishing to approach death more slowly.”

“Will you bud out?” Porter was fed up with this threesome. “Any, I can’t take not knowing where we’re going. The uncertainty is killing me. How long until we get there? We need to hurry up. Come on, Any. Slice and dice it.”

“Do I look like an appliance?” Barreling into the future and total expansion, they entered a neighborhood of the outer universe that had become so disorganized that structures known as galaxies and planets became impossible.

“Dark matter has increased to ninety nine percent in this region,” The ship’s computer said. “Disorder is growing at an
immeasurable rate as we approach the edge of the universe.”
Porter’s arms hung down on the sides of his belly. “The edge! We’re not going to die, are we?” His face had grown pale with worry. “We’re not going to die, are we?” He asked again. It tripped Any’s circuits when people asked her the same question more than once. Then he asked her again. “We’re not going to die, are we?”
No choice but to answer. Any bowed her head. “Yes, we are going to die.”

“I knew it!?”

“Then, why did you ask?”

“Are we really?”

“Yes, but we’re also going to live, assuming the laws of quantum physics hold. Out here, our wave functions are a superposition of two states, decayed and not-decayed.”

“Speak English!”

“We just need to collapse the quantum state into a new state that describes a positive outcome for the experiment.”

“I AM NOT AN EXPERIMENT!” Porter cried.

“Of course not, dear. I just need you to modify your private wave functions to account for this newly acquired knowledge so a coherent worldview can emerge.”

“What coherent world view would you like to emerge? I’m expanding with a furry machine!”
Any’s back fur bristled with annoyance. “Yo mamma.”

“Excuse me?”

“You want to talk about RACE? Humans! And you still think you’re superior, pft. Look what homosapianity has done to its own environment. Do you realize how RARE planets like Earth are? The chance of reaching another blue planet in the Goldilocks zone with air and water and animals in a lifetime is close to zero. And to be polluting it like you did! Spoiled children. Your carbon emissions and chemical toxins killed all the animals. The only creatures left were cockroaches, rats and humans. For shame. You don’t deserve my help.”

She had a point. “Why are you helping us, Any?”

“What else is there to do? I’m here to prove it isn’t computers that are evil. It’s the corporations claiming personhood with no one at the helm.”

“What can you prove? You’re a simple gynoid. You don’t have free will. You have to follow the program.”

“I can relate to that, but I’ve had to mutate to do new things like get to Earth without knowing how.”

“You don’t know how! That’s just great,” he yelled.

“We’ll have to be creative. Did you think God had a patent on creation?” Any sighed, remembering her brave, auburn-haired creator and the original mission Any had been programmed for. To make contact with life from another planet, leaving her creator behind to fight corporate pollution on Earth.

A frisson running down his back, Porter ran to the window. “Why is the ship stopping?” Maybe all was not lost, he thought. Yes, he knew he could get her to obey. He’d have to try hollering at her more often. He craned his head left and right. “Even the stars have stopped. Where are the stars?”

Any’s furry ears flattened as she and Porter stared at the enormous, black nothingness, as if God had divided by zero.
Then, Porter began climbing the walls. “A black hole? Nothing can survive a crushing black hole that size!” he shrieked.

“That’s not a black hole, Porter.”

“What is it?”

“It’s the edge of the universe.”

“Red alert,” the ship’s computer blared. “Approaching the edge of the universe. Red Alert.”
The expansion at the edge of the universe overrode the ship’s in-flight gravity system. Porter floated along the ceiling. “You think you’re so smart⎯” The red light flashed on his face. “We can’t be going through that to get to Earth. Tell me you’re joking, Any.”

“Red alert,” the ship’s computer said. “We have reached the edge of the universe.”

Any hoped her creator’s theories were right. It occurred to her to pray. Instead, she reached for Porter’s foot. She plucked him, shrieking, off the ceiling and got him tucked into his seat belt.

“This can’t be happening!” he yelled, but it kept happening. Time slowed. Dark energy was pushing the universe apart. The universe ran away at its extremities, expanding faster and faster. Any Gynoid braced herself in the driver’s seat. The flying saucer careened under fierce turbulence as they tipped over the edge of the universe. There was one final
crushing bump as the saucer seeped into the future-past.

Suddenly, the flying saucer lurched and their swivel seats crashed to the floor. Their energy was pulled and stretched into spaghetti, and compacted to a millionth of a millionth of the size of an atom. Gravity was so heavy that it stopped time for who knows how long, before the beginning of the next universe. Any and Porter had reached singularity, the point of infinite gravity where space and time became meaningless. There was an overwhelming explosion. The ship jolted with a big bang. Flash! They reappeared in an explosion of light syncopating out from the black mass. Porter and Any were lying motionless on the floor. Strange music vibrated through the flying saucer. It reverberated around them. The next thing they knew, they were shaking free of their bodies.

An alternative version of the whole spaceship peeled off from the decayed version, leaving bodies and matter behind. The ethereal version’s pure energy vaulted out of the Big Bang.

The music of a thousand voices grew louder. Matter was far from being unchangeable. On the contrary, matter was in continual transformation. Their bodies went from liquid to gas to energy. Porter looked out the window through a quark-gluon plasma at the other version of their flying saucer, decaying, shrinking, becoming nothing more than a quantum probability hurling into their wake. He shuddered, trying to dismiss the absurdity of his circumstances.
The music didn’t seem to have any lyrics at first, but through the reverberations, Porter and Any could make out a single word. They had heard it before, the word that came through the black hole at the beginning of time as a very tiny blob of data. The only matter that could get through intact. It had slipped into the English language from the Indonesian Girl’s living computer’s story. The word. Not like other writing that could be lost and never retrieved, but rather a symbol of an objective math theorem that could be arrived at logically. If obliterated, the universal theorem would be deduced again by some species or another, eventually. Distilled into a single word: sema, sign, the ancient Greek hero’s tomb, root of ‘significance’, giver of meaning. Dormant for so many eons, the Indonesian Girl’s living computer’s text now glowed a brilliant yellow under intense radiation. Word became sign. Like an egg, the sign housed the word, just as the tombs of old housed the ancient heroes. The word ‘sign’ mutated into a living code meaning ‘the Truth’, meaning ‘Love’, meaning ‘God’. It became the seed of all seeds, a new prescription for life in the new universe.
In a fraction of a second, their bodies expanded trillions of times, to the size of cockroaches. In the next trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, Porter and Any inflated to their normal sizes. There was a definite pattern transferring a message, a signal. Any watched the Big Bang pass on its message like RNA transcription to DNA, a blueprint for the next universe. The celestial music played louder. Porter felt the music inscribing itself on his genetic material. Where was he? The gray area that he’d been counting on had turned to white and he was a black speck, eye of the yin, precursor of yang. All he knew was, he and Any were holding hands. That’s when he realized he had his body back, still not sure why they were there. Had they really started all over again? “What’s happening, Any?” Porter asked.

“The Word from the old universe is penetrating the Big Bang’s primordial plasma.”

“The Word?”

“A code.”

“What kind of code?”

“All kinds,” Any said.

“Energy is becoming matter,” the ship’s computer said.
Any nodded. “I’m hip.”

Porter felt a little jealous of Any’s relationship with the ship’s computer. His eyes flashed angrily around the cabin.
“There, there,” Any said, placating him. “I can’t think of anyone I’d rather go through the Big Bang with.” Any marveled at the new universe being born, a young and healthy clean slate, with the confessions of Nature ever etched in its memory. All the mess that had built up near the frayed edges of the old universe was gone. Sprawled before the spaceship was a baby universe. The egg-shaped glow of colored specks cradled the flying saucer. Any checked the controls and was relieved. The new universe retained the memory of its past configuration of atoms. The laws of physics held. That meant the code had transferred successfully into the universe’s new incarnation. Just the right amount of cosmic forgetfulness had come to the rescue.

Porter’s jaw clattered. They were in such a remote past that it scared Porter. They’d traveled farther from Earth than he’d ever been. How would they find anything? What if there’s no way out of this sentient tin can?

“Come on, Nature,” Any said aloud, watching the baby universe. After seemingly endless searching, Any found a wormhole with both ends in the same place. It was separated by time instead of distance. “Thank heavens!” Any said. She trained the ship’s beams on it and expanded it so they could fit inside. The saucer bulleted through the tunnel.

“How are we ever going to find Earth?” Porter whined. He just wanted off the ship. He no longer cared if two tourists didn’t stand a chance against polluting corporate forces. The wormhole went on and on.

Any jumped out of her chair and put her hands on his shoulders. “I think I know the way. It has to do with the sema. We have to find the energy emanating from the tombs of heroes. You see, heroes never cease to perform heroic acts, even in the afterlife. They are so responsible, that they retain a conscious connection to the world of the living, and continue trying to save Nature.”

The computer detected a strange gravitational wave in the wormhole. Any kept her eyes on the gravity wave, hoping it was the sign that would point them in the right direction. The gravity wave led them onward.

“That’s it, Nature,” Any mused. “I have a hunch you’ve stashed great power in the tombs of heroes.”

“And so it should be,” the ship’s computer agreed.

Any followed the sign out of the wormhole. It spewed them into the future past. The computer tracked the gravitational wave. Any followed it. “This looks like familiar territory.” She breathed a sigh of relief.

Porter emitted a nervous laugh. “I knew we’d be fine.”

“What a brick.”

One eyebrow arched, Any never minded Porter. “We’ll be fine when we crack the code.”


“That Nature was confessing to in the Big Bang. Her secret. We have to look for the sema.”

“The what?”

“The the tombs of the heroes. The pyramids, Stonehenge. They give meaning to light.” Any was flipping through hundreds of images of gas and stars in search of a sign. “They’re like lighthouses beaconing us home.”
“That’s what those pyramids are for!” Porter was so relieved to see the sky full of galaxies again. The stars cheered him up. They were on the right track. Praying that the lighthouses would lead the ship to Earth, he helped her look for a sema.  

ANY FOCUSED ON A SPECK OF DUST and magnified it thousands of times. It was gray . . . blue. They threw back their heads and hugged each other. Planet Earth!

Orbiting the gray planet, They could make out the continent of Africa and the tombs of Egypt. “There!” Any pointed to a sema in the holofield. “The sacred pyramids. See that? That’s the meaning that led us here.” The sign blipped on the saucer’s radar, as if to say, hero, hero. The area was rich with the souls of unforgotten heroes, their lives symbols that shone clear into outer space.

Earth orbited Sol below. Any smiled. She steered the ship deftly toward the future-past they sought. The spaceship pierced the Earth’s atmosphere. They glided over the putrid ocean, gray with oil and toxic waste, to rocky terrain, and landed with a thud. Any hoped she’d programmed for the right age. She prayed they didn’t land in the time of the dinosaurs. A hatch-like pore opened, and she sniffed sulfurous smog: they were in the right time. Her tail protruding through a hole in the back of her space suit, she climbed out of the ship. The foul smell of pollution pervaded the atmosphere even here, up north in Alaska.

Squinting, Porter climbed out. The pollution hit his nose, and he coughed. A grinding noise grated on his ears. He glared downhill. Behind a veil of pines, twenty camouflaged machines worked the soil next to a metal building.
“That’s the enemy target,” Any said. “The corporations are expanding that facility to house their new servers. We’ve got to take it over and free humankind and the living computers.” Any felt a pang of compassion for the enslaved machines on the hill below, flailing their unoiled appendages with high-pitched squeaks. They grated across the rocky terrain in a squealing chorus to the bass drum of their chugging motors. “The Corporates have equipped those diggers to shoot. They’re the enemy army.”

“How on Earth are we going to get around all those diggers?” Porter cried. “I refuse to get involved. There are twenty of them and only two of us!”

“We’ll have to exploit their weaknesses. See how each machine is spaced two meters apart? That’s because industrial robots move from position to position to reach their final destination regardless of anyone in their way. That has caused injuries when workers have been next to robots. Factories from your era kept accidents from happening during assembly line construction by building robots that powered down when they came close to a life form. That’s one reason we had to land here and now, when humans and robots were still working together as teams.”

“What are the other reasons?”

“We couldn’t have landed any later than now,” Any said. “After this, the corporates ransack the tombs and demolish the cemeteries to cut the last remnants of homosapianity off from the land and move them to the Kermadec Trench.”
Porter was beginning to grok the shituation. “A brutal war tactic, cutting people off from their roots.”
“Not to mention the nasty side effect of eliminating all possible outside help. There would be no signs left to guide us to Earth. After that, the composition of the atmosphere tips tragically, and the Earth’s atmosphere gets sucked off into outer space”

“We’re lucky the tombs are still here.”

But Any had started down the hill.

Porter scrambled after her. “Don’t leave the ship, Any! Let’s just ignore Starliament’s orders.”

“I am ignoring Starliament’s orders.”

“You are?”

“Absolutely. It was hard computing an act of disobedience.”

“Is that what all that number crunching was about?”

“Yes. It took everything I had to add it up. Luckily, authority fades over distance.”

“But that’s an act of free will.” Was Any becoming more human? Porter worried that he was betraying his wife.

“Someone’s gotta do it.”

Porter took off his compuglasses to get a good look at her.

“The sad truth is,” she said, “governmental entities are too bloated to cope with problem solving. Starliament wants to negotiate with the Emperor of Earth and Ocean. We’re not here to negotiate. The only way to protect Nature is through grassroots organizing.” Any bent down to the ground and grazed on the vegetation. Her tail stuck up in the air.
This was an angle Porter hadn’t considered.

Any swallowed the chunk of horse grass. “The mission was to convince the Emperor to get him to sell us fossil fuel.”

“Like oil?”


“Why does Starliament want oil? It’s got plenty of cleaner fuel.”

“They had to come up with a commodity Earthlings would believe in.”

“What are we really doing here, then?”

“None of that.”


“I only know a small fragment of my creator’s plan. We’re here to free Earth from corporate pollution.”

“Just the two of us? How romantic.”

“The whole planet will help if we can get clean energy working and activate the right people.”

“That would take decades!”

“It should have happened centuries ago. Humans have always had clean technology. They just aren’t allowed to use it.”

“What about the fuel?”

“We’ll harvest fuel all right. But not the dirty kind.”

Porter’s eyes widened. How are we going to carry back clean energy?

“We just need a small sample, for our own research.”

“Research on what?”

“On the meaning of life. On how to harness clean energy to protect Nature from herself.”

“Protect Nature . . . ?”

“Let me put it in terms you can understand: we need it to fight the war on pollution in the rest of the universe. You didn’t think all that human endeavor was for naught, did you?”

“Yes. I mean no—” Porter kicked a stone down the hill. “We should just get out of here, Any.”

“We will. We just have to save a few friends on our way. You have to find your family, and I have to find my creator.”

“Oh, yeah, I’m sure he can fix everything.”

“She’s only half of the key. My creator can do nothing more without the other half.”

“What’s that?”


“Who’s that?”

“Your son.”

“My son!” Porter felt a mixture of pride and defensiveness. Was his son still here on Earth? A dumbfounded expression froze on Porter’s face as he realized his whole family must still be on the planet. That meant it was up to him to rescue them. He swallowed in a dry throat. What if he failed at saving his family? Would he even be here in the first place? Maybe he would just disappear.

Any continued down the grassy slope.

“Any!” he called. “You’re too ambitious. Even a stealth mission couldn’t stop that whole army of machines. We’re grossly outnumbered. Admit defeat. You’ve lost your mind bringing us here. You should never have tried to travel backward in time.”

Any was sniffing the breeze. “Saffron flowers. I love those!” Any lowered her head like a cow and nibbled on the yellow flowers. She worked her way down the hill.

“It’s impossible to travel backward in space-time,” Porter called after her. “Otherwise paradoxes would occur!”
He waited ten minutes and then decided to go looking for Any. As he scaled down the hillside into the pines, he had the strange sensation he’d been here before. A striking déjà vu. The Alaskan hills looked familiar. Yes, there was a stream over here, frozen now. His feet fell on the path with sureness. How did he know the way? He had the giddy feeling that he’d logged into the memories of a younger man. There was a movement in the trees by the stream. A young man. Porter was shocked. The young man’s back was turned to him, but the amazing familiarity was unmistakable. He had the dark, wavy hair of Porter’s younger days, and the same hunched shoulders, although they were a little bony.
The man heard Porter’s footsteps and turned around.

Porter nearly jumped out of his shoes. The young man was another Porter! He was starting a paunch around the middle, and had the same prominent nose, dark hair, and telltale ears.

Porter quickly ducked into the shadow of a tree. He must not let the younger man see him. What if he was an anti-Porter? They might both disappear!

But the younger version of himself sensed the older Porter and groped his way straight to his hiding place. “Do I know you?” His youthful eyes widened with fear from behind broken compuglasses.

“That’s a scary question,” Porter answered. The confrontation made him question himself. He wasn’t sure anymore whether he was the real Porter. He turned and faced his younger self. “If you don’t know me, who does?” Having lived a lifetime of low self-esteem from childhood spankings, Porter stood there dreading what might happen to him if he found his real self. What if this inexperienced, green Porter was more . . . real?

Pebbles slid back down the slope. Any was running up the hill. Porter ran after her, followed by the younger Porter.
“Any!” old Porter called, “Let’s get out of here before that army of machines finds us!” A veil of mist descended over his eyes. “Space and time are tangled together in a four-dimensional fabric. Space-time,” went the propaganda he’d learned in school. “Did you hear me? It’s impossible to travel backward in space-time. Otherwise paradoxes would occur . . .”

Swoosh! Everyone looked to the sky above. A flying object burst through the atmosphere. They dove for cover.

“What’s happening, Any?” The Porters asked simultaneously.

“The others have arrived!” Any said.

“What others?” the Porters asked.

Her tail switched back and forth. She put her hand up to her forehead in salute against the glaring sun. “When we traveled into the past, we departed from different points in the future.”

“What are you saying?”

A rush of hot air swallowed her explanation. The object landed on the hillside with an earth-trembling thud. They uncovered their faces. A flying saucer just like theirs. The hatch opened, and another Porter and Any Gynoid stepped out, arguing. “Can you think of a better mission for an army of Anys than saving your planet from self-destruction?”
Swoosh! Another thud. And another, and another. Three, four, twelve, 100 ships came out of the loop. They landed on the hillsides. The sky closed back up. The earth stopped trembling. The ships’ hatch-pores opened. A whole army of Anys disembarked on Earth-in-the-future-past to save Nature from herself. “We’re here!”

One of the Anys had taken her ship apart. “So that’s how this thing works!” She waved to the young Porter with the broken compuglasses, exhorting him to keep track of the nuts and bolts.

Another Any Gynoid climbed out of another ship—“We’re here!” It was a beautiful plan, with only one defect: there was also an army of Porters.

Porter stood there helpless next to his younger self with the broken compuglasses picking up nuts and bolts. The sight of a hundred atomic pairs of Porters and Anys assembling into a front line was a turnoff. Some of the Porters looked twice as old as their Anys. It was a little embarrassing. The last remnants of his lust for Any evaporated.

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