While time can wait, p.1
While Time Can Wait
Copyright 2015 by J.J. Mainor
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Table of Contents
While Time Can Wait
Preview: USS Krakowski
Preview: Are There Heroes In Hell?
Preview: Prisoners of Utopia
Also By J.J. Mainor
While Time Can Wait
“Dad! Come quick!”
In his fourteen years, Chandler had never before seen a metal box float so gracefully from the sky. If it was a ship or plane of some kind, it was certainly odd. There were no engines or thrusters, no wings or rudders, no doors or windows. It was an ordinary, silvery-white box with rounded edges and corners, and no seems to indicate individual panels in the hull. Nor was there any sign of how it floated from the sky and landed so gently in the garden.
His father Kevin, strolled unconcerned into the room. Whatever his son’s problem was could not have been more troubling than the realization during his morning routine that those silvery streaks in his hair were not a trick of the light. He already had to accept the wrinkling beneath the eyes, and the deepening lines in his forehead and around his mouth, but a couple years remained still of his fourth decade: too soon for gray to creep in.
The job couldn’t have been that stressful, he thought. The IPO last year went off trouble free. As long the customers kept coming bringing their money to the accounts, the investors left him alone. Even so, with a net worth over three billion dollars, he could afford to consider retirement before surrendering the last illusions of youth. He could step away from any headache the company might trigger, and hand control to his vice president.
But Kevin could not ignore the headache outside the rear windows. While his son saw it as an aircraft of some kind, it looked to him like someone parked a cargo container smack in the middle of his outdoor oasis.
“Where did that come from?”
He hoped to God it wasn’t sitting on his fire pit.
With Chandler in tow, he exited the patio doors. His son’s explanation that it just landed didn’t ring true, although he couldn’t imagine any more plausible explanation himself. It was not as if a trailer could get back there to unload the container. He would have expected to hear the engine and feel the rumble of its movements. Yet there had to be a logical explanation to this box.
He placed his hand on the metal casing. If this had dropped from the sky, he imagined it would feel cold from flying through the air, or hot from a descent through the atmosphere; it was neither. It was no warmer or cooler to the touch than if it had been sitting in his yard all year. He knocked and found the structure hollow. If there was something inside, or if it was meant to be entered, he couldn’t find the door. But as if the thing sensed his confusion, a section of the wall near his hand shimmered and a doorway dissolved from the face of the box. Kevin jumped back as if he had been poking a snake without expecting it to lunge.
A creature stepped from the opening onto the lawn. It appeared to be human, though Kevin noted something off about it. Its face, its hair, its eyes, all seemed…generic was the word that came to mind. It did not have the slightest hint of wrinkles or lines in the face like he saw on his own face every morning in the mirror. Its skin was perfectly uniform in color. There were no red spots, no light or dark patches. Kevin couldn’t even find the blue lines marking the veins. It wore a seemingly unisex robe, same silvery-white color as the box, which concealed any physical hints to the creature’s gender. And like the box, there were no seams to the garment, as though it had been woven into shape.
Chandler looked on in awe, though his father remained cautious, holding the boy behind him. The creature approached, studying both intently.
“What do you want,” Kevin finally asked it, as though somehow expecting it to understand. And yet, not only did it understand, but it responded in perfect English. It spoke without even a hint of an accent, like someone who had trained their speech for years preparing for a role on the nightly news.
“You are Kevin Riordan.”
How it knew his name was a frightening mystery. Could this thing have been watching him and his family before making its appearance? What did it even want? The questions rushed through his mind, swirled with the fears of what it planned to do. Surely he would find more gray hairs tomorrow…if he was still around.
The thing seemed to sense Kevin’s apprehension. “I am W’n Loo. Do not be afraid.”
As a demonstration of its sincerity, W’n Loo’s form melted into that of a tiger. The animal approached Chandler, and with the affection of an ordinary housecat, it rubbed its head against his leg. Then it returned to its original spot in front of the box, and took back the human form.
While doing little to assuage Kevin’s fears, the teenager was in awe.
“How did you do that,” Chandler asked.
“My people have the ability to manipulate matter with our minds.”
Even after seeing the parlor trick, Kevin remained skeptical. To prove its abilities, W’n Loo began demonstrating with a host of tricks. It (or rather she, as the creature would eventually reveal to the pair) sprouted a field of poppies throughout the yard, creating any color imaginable, not just red or white, but neon colors, and some in the infrared spectrum that Kevin and Chandler were unable to enjoy.
She held out her hand, plucking atoms from the air and coalescing them into an apple, which she gave to Chandler to sample. He took a bite. Though it tasted a bit off (he couldn’t quite place what was missing from the flavor), he was impressed with the product.
She even levitated the patio furniture. As she explained, she not only subtracted atoms to weaken the density, but increased the concentration of the air molecules around the pieces so as to make them literally lighter than the air.
Kevin accepted that W’n Loo meant to cause no harm. If she truly possessed the powers her tricks implied, then he had no means to oppose her. Any deception was useless on her part since she could conjure anything she desired, or atomize both him and his son from existence with a flick of her mind. As she went on to explain, she only had a message to deliver.
W’n Loo invited the father and son into the box, rematerializing the door behind them. The interior was about as plain and uninteresting as the exterior. This thing was genuinely a box, although she altered the walls to make them transparent; the dual purpose of which was to bring light in, and allow them to see out. They watched as, like the furniture, this box lifted off from the ground on its way into the atmosphere.
While their vehicle rose higher and higher, W’n Loo related her story. Her people were from a world far, far off in the universe, arising among the first generation of worlds after creation. Her people evolved billions of years before our sun even considered existence. Their minds developed to our level of mental power and beyond. As she explained, when they began to exhibit the first rudimentary control, they experimented in order to learn the extent of these abilities. At first they had only small, localized control of objects, but they soon learned they could make modest adjustments within their own brains.
They found they could extract materials from the ground and create whatever objects they needed in their lives. All industry followed in agriculture’s path. Eventually when their power increased enough to reconfigure the atoms themselves, scarcity of base materials disappeared. Any sense of economy disappeared. Currency became irrelevant. There were no longer the haves and have-nots, only doers.
Chandler watched, mouth agape as their box ascended above the clouds. Were they really heading into space he wondered.
W’n Loo explained to him and his father that once freed from matters of survival, her people took to exploration. They began building ships like the one they were in, before realizing they could alter their bodies further to survive unaided in the vacuum of space. Soon after that, they found a way to explore without the journey.
W’n Loo darkened the craft’s panels to filter the sun’s light. Kevin had grown up watching Star Wars and Star Trek. How cool it would have been to see the moon, if only they weren’t on the wrong side of the world.
“Your people learned to teleport!”
“Not as you think of it.” With a thought, the image of Earth outside switched to a solid wall of brownish swirling clouds. Kevin peered around, finding empty space outside the other faces of their box. But this wasn’t their box. This craft was larger, perhaps a mother ship to the smaller shuttle they left his back yard in.
It had the same, antiseptic, silver-white theme; and it was similarly empty except for the three of them. Kevin realized they were still breathing, so the air in the cabin had the same composition as on Earth. The temperature, too was comfortable. And since the aliens didn’t need environment, the craft was obviously prepared for their arrival.
Chandler remained fixated on the clouds out the one side. So close, he could see individual wisps swirling and churning within the brownish soup.
W’n Loo informed him they were in close orbit around a gas giant thousands of light years from Earth, similar to Jupiter, but smaller, yet denser. The orbit of their craft was so low, it skimmed the outermost traces of hydrogen in the atmosphere.
“Were we just transported,” Chandler asked.
“Recreated.” W’n Loo explained that they learned to manipulate matter across vast distances in the universe. They could get around the physical limits of the universe, by creating copies of themselves at the destination point. Once the mind was completed and the copy became a fully functional duplicate, the original would be dissolved into its base atoms.
In this case, though, W’n Loo chose not to destroy the originals. While she had the ability to recreate them all back at Earth when finished here, it remained easier to simply alter the memories in those originals to contain the memories of these copies after the trip. It was strange for Kevin to think that there were other versions of themselves left back at Earth twiddling their thumbs and killing time while their copies enjoyed this tour of the universe.
But W’n Loo explained that her people did not tour the universe; not at first. Their minds reached out and found other civilizations to which they appeared. Exploration was slow, so they learned to recreate specific memories from those cultures into their own heads, knowing everything they wanted in an instant. Generations of discovery and knowledge had been condensed to mere seconds.
One day, a handful of them realized their existence was headed toward stagnation. If every kernel of knowledge, and every secret of the universe could be discovered in but an insignificant fraction of all of time, they argued, what would they do as a people with the remainder of history?
It was a concern that spread quickly. Their species had progressed so rapidly. They became so concerned with results, final products, destinations, that they had forgotten about the journey. All the universe had been taken for granted.
Kevin realized a second alien had joined them. Like W’n Loo, this one had taken a human form. His name was T’l Got, and it was his ship, not W’n Loo’s that orbited the gas giant.
T’l Got explained that he was three light years into an eleven light year journey to visit a fledgling civilization still in its hunter-gatherer stage. The trip had already taken more than twenty thousand Earth years. While he could have taken himself there millennia ago, had he done so, he would not have seen this gas giant.
This oversized ball of gas was nothing special in the universe. Millions upon millions of these worlds littered the expanse. These beings could see a world like this one anywhere they went. And yet they had learned to appreciate the beauty in the flowing cloud bands floating atop the hydrogen and helium in the atmosphere of this particular gas giant. A common sight and these creatures could hang above and admire it for maybe a century or more before deciding to move on.
“Our abilities,” W’n Loo went on to explain, “allow us to exist as immortals. This world’s star will end its existence in a few billion years, stripping away this atmosphere and killing this world’s beauty. While time can wait for us, it will not wait for this work of galactic art.”
W’n Loo mentioned having a message for him, and Kevin wondered if that was it. Was our society so focused on our goals, that we missed everything else around us? His new alien friend assured him that was not exactly it.
With another thought, they were back in W’n Loo’s craft overlooking Earth. She brought it down into the atmosphere and through the clouds, landing it once again in Kevin’s back yard.
“I have come to you,” W’n Loo told him and Chandler, “because like my kind, yours strives to make your lives easier. You have learned to grow food because that is more dependable than finding it in nature. You have improved your tools throughout history so you could build and create and process with increasing efficiency. You have formed societies so that each member can specialize on one piece of your overall survival.
“Machines have taken over many of your tasks and made others easier, just as our abilities have freed us from of our basic needs. Forgoing the journey to reach your destination is not in itself detrimental, so long as it does not take away from who you are as a people.”
“I don’t get it,” Chandler interrupted. “What is the problem?”
W’n Loo looked to Kevin who had a strange feeling he wasn’t going to like what she was about to say.
“You have created a service to deliver entertainment anywhere, anytime.”
It was true; Kevin’s company was Vidstream, the largest movie and television streaming service on the internet. He created it almost ten years ago, singlehandedly bringing down the largest DVD rental chains in the company. He didn’t just broaden access to movies at lower prices, Kevin’s service was a huge influence on the growing trend of binge-watching for television shows.
That trend was what concerned W’n Loo. “You used to tune in every week to watch your favorite shows, and then you would have to wait a week to see the next episode. A season finale often ended in a cliff hanger that would leave your audiences waiting three months to find out the conclusion. Favorite episodes had people talking, while disappointing episodes incited fury.
“But thanks to your company, few people watch their shows when they air. Many wait to watch the season as a whole. Given enough time, the whole model will disappear as the networks themselves lose profitability, and programming is released exclusively on services such as Vidstream.
“When binge-watching becomes the common model, individual episodes lose their impact on the viewers. The series as a whole becomes the focal point while the lesser episodes are no longer considered bad and the greater episodes are no longer great. Your television programs and your movies are like the gas giants: far too common to be remembere
The message baffled Kevin. Ours was a society forever at war. We kill each other by the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and even by the millions, for nothing more than the color of skin or inclination of beliefs. The political battles over climate change blind societies to the real world limitations of our food supplies. We are so intent on destroying ourselves, and yet an all-powerful, god-like alien saw his company as the greatest threat to our society.
“Yours is a violent species,” W’n Loo explained. “Your weapons and your wars are part of your identity. Another part is your ability to create societies to overcome those larger problems. Entertainment helps define a species no matter where in the universe you are. Enjoyment derives from the anticipation. Your entertainment has evolved throughout your history, but the constant has been the journey to it.”
W’n Loo was asking Kevin to abandon the business he built his fortune on. More importantly, she was asking for the end of an inevitable future for entertainment.
“If I ignore your message,” he asked his alien guide, “will you take it upon yourself to end my business?”
She indicated that would not be so. “Free will was another trait that has come to define your species. How and when you entertain yourselves is your choice.” The message represented the extent of her interference. “You can choose to experience stagnation as my species had, or you can choose to take another path.”
W’n Loo left Kevin and Chandler in the yard and returned to her own journey. Chandler look nervously to his father.
“You aren’t actually shutting down Vidstream, are you?”
Kevin knew that was not possible. The world had already been exposed to on-demand streaming. It had become too popular to shut down, even if he wanted to. If he did, someone else would come along with a similar service and he would have accomplished nothing.
He assured his son Vidstream was going nowhere. After all, humans could not be told what to do. We would have to experience that stagnation on our own and choose on our own to return from it. It might seem counter intuitive to ignore the warnings of a wiser culture, but part of the human condition W’n Loo failed to understand was its drive to make its own mistakes, and to learn from its own experiences.
I hope you enjoyed this story. I wasn’t aiming for a piece with too much depth, but found the idea amusing that all-powerful aliens might come to us with a warning that we’re on the verge of destroying ourselves, not through war, environmental neglect, or general violence, but through something as seemingly innocuous as an entertainment choice.
I really don’t believe the modern notion of binge watching TV shows, and the streaming services which facilitate it are truly a plague on society; rather it gives us a new dynamic to our entertainment. The way we digest not just movies and television shows, but even ebooks such as this one, has made us a society ravenous for entertainment like never before. We’re eating through it faster than the entertainment companies can pump it out.
Sites like Youtube allow for independent filmmakers to create their own work and release it without Hollywood filters. Indie authors have flooded sites like the Istore, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon with literally millions of titles; and readers like you gobble it all up as fast as it goes out there.
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While Time Can Wait by J.J. Mainor / Science Fiction have rating 3.2 out of 5 / Based on19 votes