Print Magazine

Classic, Cutting-edge, Essential.
Asimov's award-winning stories delivered directly to your door!

Shop Print Magazine

Digital Newsstand

Start Reading.
Available for your tablet, Reader, Smart Phone, PC, and Mac! 

Shop Digital Newsstand

Story Excerpts

The Mind Is Its Own Place

by Carrie Vaughn

Professional fingers pried open Mitchell’s left eyelid, and white light blinded him. The process repeated on the right. He winced and turned his head to escape. The grip released him.

“Lieutenant Greenau?”

He lay on a bunk in an infirmary. It wasn’t the Francis Drake’s infirmary. The smell was wrong; the background hum of the vessel was wrong. This place sounded softer, more distant. Larger. With effort, he shifted an arm. His head hurt. He felt like he’d been asleep for days.

“Lieutenant Greenau? Mitchell?” The figure at the side of his bed gave him something to focus on. A middle-aged man in a white tunic, with a narrow face and a receding hairline, frowned at him. “How are you feeling?”

“Groggy.” He struggled for awareness.

“You were sedated.”

“Can you give me something to clear it up?”

“I’d rather not put anything else into your system just yet.”

He wished he didn’t have to ask: “Where am I?”

“You’re at Law Station, Lieutenant.”

Law Station was a Military Division forward operating base and shipyard. It would have taken the Drake days to get here, and he didn’t remember the trip. Law also housed an extensive medical facility.

Softly, as if afraid of upsetting a fragile piece of equipment, he asked, “Why am I here?”

“What do you remember?”

He’d arrived on the bridge for his shift. He’d checked in with Captain Scott. Then he assumed he’d taken his place at the navigator station. He must have done his job as he had a hundred times before. He checked in with the captain, the duty log scanned his thumbprint—

“I was on the Francis Drake. On the bridge. I said good morning to the captain. Then—I don’t remember.” He kneaded the sheet draped over him, cramping his fingers. He was wearing a patient gown, not his uniform.

“That’s all right.” The doctor smiled, but the expression was shallow, artificial, a forced attempt at bedside manner. “I’m Doctor Dalton, one of the supervising physicians here. If you need anything, a pager is at the side of the bunk.”

“Doctor—” Mitchell forced himself up, rolling to his side and leaning hard on his elbow. The effort left him gasping. “What happened?” READ MORE

 

The Whole Mess

by Jack Skillingstead

The kid in the duck-hunting hat reached across my desk with a folded sheet of yellow graph paper in his fingers. “I think you will find this interesting, Professor Dunn.”

I took the paper and opened it. A mathematical equation, meticulously printed in black pencil, marched across the sheet. It began: {C-cosmo} {C-astro} and at first glance appeared to be headed toward Gleiser’s multiverse modification of the Drake equation. But it diverged wildly and without resolution.

“What is it, Mr. Whitfield?” I asked, not quite looking at him.

“Something I believe only you can finish.”

“I see. Stump the prof. I’m not a cosmologist, you know.”

He shook his head, rejecting my rejection. Daniel Whitfield was big as a linebacker, though nothing about him suggested athleticism. Freshman-aged, but not a freshman, he had been auditing my combinatorial topology class at the University of Washington, and he was becoming a distraction. Each day he showed up in his absurd red-and-black duck hunting hat with the ear flaps turned down, sat in the front row, and stared at me. Whitfield never removed his hat or his camel hair coat. A silver ballpoint pen protruded from the outside breast pocket, and feathery gray streaks stained the lapels of the coat. Cigarette ash, I guessed, smelling tobacco now that he was sitting so near.

“I’m not trying to stump you,” he said. “You’re looking at the most important work you will ever do.”

“Is that right?”

“You want to know what it is?”

“Not especially.” I resumed placing folders into my briefcase, which is what I’d been doing when Whitfield entered.

“It’s an incantation,” he said.

“A what?” I met his eyes briefly and looked away.

“You concede Tegmark’s mathematical universe hypothesis?”

“No.”

“You don’t concede it? That’s in direct contradiction to what you’ve—”

“I concede the MUH, but I don’t agree to this discussion.”

“I risked my life to bring this to you.”

“Mr. Whitfield, please.”

Whitfield pointed at the paper. “It’s ancient. When they found it, the final expression was missing, deliberately removed. Once that expression is restored, the world changes. I’m confident it won’t defeat you, Professor Dunn. I’ve studied everything you’ve published since your student days at Harvard. Very unorthodox. This problem requires a particular genius.”

I was inclined to laugh, but Whitfield’s intense and utterly humorless stare “defeated” me, as he might have put it. Genius. I hated that word. READ MORE

Website design and development by Americaneagle.com, Inc.

Close this window
Close this window

Sign up for special offers, information on
next month's issue and more!


Signup Now No, Thanks