The Dreamer — part 56

a tale in weekly parts

The story so far

Bernice Reed, a thirty-something African-American woman from Arizona, appeared in the street of a small Canadian town some two hundred years in her future in the body of a white male. Now known as Bernie, he settled into a high-tech life. But it didn't end there! Not by any means. Any change to the 'past' after her/his translation would (and did) rewrite the future - his present.

And then it became more complicated…

Episode 56

“Job done?” Julian asked, “What makes you say that?”

“I prevented the rape, didn’t I? So the thing we feared won’t happen. And, as a bonus, Song is behind bars for quite a long time.”

“Both true. For the time being, at least. And I agree, they’ve been looking for ages to find a reason to put him away.”

“And now they have one. So, what else is there to do?”

“Do you remember the possible future I showed you, Bernice?”

“How could I forget, Julian? I’ve never seen anything so horrible in my life.”

“When you had Song put away, I looked at the scenario again.”

“And?”

“Are you familiar with the saying ‘things are never so bad they can’t get worse’?”

“What are you suggesting, Julian?”

“On first look, it seemed to be okay, but something else intervened.”

“Another evil monster?”

“Not his time. And it doesn’t just involve this planet. This time, something has corrupted the fabric of space-time itself.”

“But what? How? Who? When? Where?”

“All very good questions, Bernice. Questions the core is working on now.”

“So what can we do?”

“Brainstorm is starting from the end-point and working back to find the most probable cause—”

“Most probable cause? That’s pretty vague. I remember the charts the AI did when I was with the Smythes when I first – you-know.”

“I do know, Bernice. I was there too, remember?”

“Of course. Well, surely a chart like that will let them back-track through events to find the causes. After all, each interim effect must have a finite number of causes, known causes at that, and mapping and following them can’t be beyond Brainstorm’s capabilities. Anyway, what are we supposed to do in the meantime?”

“We, my young Padawan, approach it from the other direction.”

“You mean—”

“We look for events that might have the long-term potential to do harm.”

“You’re kidding!”

“Not at all. We each take one situation, then follow through all its most likely direct outcomes, then follow through on each of those—”

“Becoming more complex at each step. How are you going to make that work? Even if—”

“Near-infinite capacity, Bernice. Near-infinite capacity.”

“Before we start, Julian, can I suggest you do the arithmetic. Assume, say, five possible outcomes from each action. How long will it be before the range of results becomes unmanageable? Five? Ten?”

“Well, ten will take us to a number approaching—”

“Ten million!”

“Well, nine point seven six million, but I get your point.”

There followed a moment’s silence, finally interrupted by Julian.

“Wait,” he said, “the AI is showing that something else happened. The predicted outcome has changed. The integrity of space-time is assured, so far, at least.”

“What happened?”

“It’s not clear. Something about the concurrent development of a revolutionary class of spacecraft – by more than one race.”

“How can a spacecraft damage space-time?”

“It was designed to manipulate space in a way that was harmful to its integrity. The races involved were eventually persuaded to abandon its construction, happily before it became operational.”

“That was a lucky break. So, as I said earlier, what’s next?”

“I’d quite like to look for a way of getting you back to where you came from.”

“What, undo the swap with Stimbler? Put me back as I was before all these adventures? Not on your life!”

“I thought the idea would please you.”

“It might have, in the early days. I hated being in that man’s body, but it opened my eyes to possibilities I‘d never dreamed of before. My life in the twenty-first century was okay but no better than that. Back then, although things were improving, it was happening very slowly. In many ways, being black was still enough to put you at a disadvantage to white folks, and being a woman still put you at a disadvantage to men.”

“Is that fair, Bernice? Let me throw just two names at you: Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey.”

“You give me two names, I could give you two thousand. Remember, by that time, from a global population of billions, only twelve humans had set foot on the moon. All twelve were men, all twelve were white. I know there were some black men and women involved in space programmes from their earliest days, some even flew in space, but you have to look hard to find more than a dozen names.”

“Are you saying you don’t want to go back to your old life?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying, Julian.”

“Good. That’s what I expected and hoped for. Now, another choice to make. Revert to the body you were last in or stay in the AI?”

“I assume remaining in here will mean occasional external jobs?”

“Of course. You have qualities that make you ideal for a number of tasks.”

“In that case, my friend and mentor; count me in.”

2 comments

    • Keith Channing

      I’m thinking that maybe this tale has reached a natural conclusion. It’s moved a long way from its beginning fourteen months ago. Perhaps Friday needs a new direction – resurrection of Albert & Jarvis is a possibility, or something completely new.

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