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For first time out of town bands without the backing of an agency or label we recommend building a showcase with local or established acts. We receive a high volume of emails and they do get lost from time to time. If you have not heard back from us within 5 business days please resend. My act was booked, what comes next? First off, please make sure you really are booked. There have been times the booker has given a tentative date and this has been misunderstood as a confirmed show.

Day of show contact for your act phone number and email. Advance any links, media, etc you would like used for promotion of the show. What should I expect day of show? Gear share and backline arrangements are encouraged on larger shows. The details of your hospitality should have been shared with you in advance by our bookers. You will not always have access to the green room. Lose the consensus, Jimmy. Wake up, uh. The shareholder gave him a cautious but superior smile. Bodine fell into a dream looking at the gauzy white clouds against the light and bright November sky.

Good day for something. He put some music in his workspace and started walking. Bodine had nearly been swept that time. Bodine sat down on a bench and took the newspaper out of his packet. It was really a small white-light hologram. He held it up to his eye and looked through to see an old-fashioned newspaper spread out on a table. Social hygiene was page four. Bodine laughed bitterly. The state invented the diseases and spread them, but it always named them after some perceived social ill. This time it was enlightenment, next time it might be underconsumption or dirty teeth.

In any case, the point was that if you were too wasted or stubborn to go get the state-administered antidote you were going to get swept. Bodine checked the date on the paper. Today was the 20th. Now where was the nearest center? After a few minutes he knew where to go. Off the interface, brought down in the marketplace, running scared like they wanted. Halfway down the block Bodine bumped into his friend Ace High. Ace was standing on the sidewalk with his head thrown far back and his arms wrapped around his legs.

The Metal Crane position. Bodine stopped to look at Ace for a minute. Bodine was clearly in the presence of an unvaccinated fellow-citizen. Ace High was infinitely differentiable. He got the message and locked in on the signal. His face split like a melon when he smiled, as he did now, uncleaned teeth glistening in the sun. Bodine and Ace High started off for the vaccination center. It was easier to be going together. That way if you forgot where you were going, your friend might still know. He still had his pair. Ace had lost his, so they decided to stop in at the next news-shop to get some.

Bodine was already feeling the effects of his stunglasses. His mind was filled with safety tips, news updates, and new product information. Purposefully he went into the news-shop and bought a pair of stunglasses for Ace High. It was an attractive little shop with a big multiplexed holographic display in the corner. If Bodine looked in just the right direction, the image his stunglasses produced fit right on top of the image displayed in the news-shop.

Fortunately Ace High had already put on his new stunglasses. Ace High looked at the floor, not wanting to disturb his friend. The stunglasses were projecting a three-dimensional holographic image in front of everything he looked at. It was a lot things at once, and his brain knew how to sort out and store the information. His trusting brain was soaking it right up.

Concern that he had not drawn his paycheck for two months. Concern about what he had been doing for two months. Concern that everyone receive their Enlightenment Rabies vaccination, particularly himself and Bodine. Concern with the fact that more and more young people were turning their backs on the real world, only to go chasing after some kind of crazy half-scientific hopped-up occultist mystagogic blue-dome swizzle, uh. Bodine was more or less squatting on the floor with his arms between his knees. He was singing or moaning a wavering note. The Music of the Spheres is what the kids called it, and ordinarily if your best friend was singing the Music of the Spheres you left him alone for a few days.

Then he shifted phases, the images unlocked, and he was walking out the door with a headache. Bodine nodded, and they started down the cold and dry sidewalk, flooded yellow with clear November sun. They were wearing their stunglasses, and each of them had about half of his attention occupied by the multiplex image the stunglasses projected into any part of the visual field not under active scrutiny.

They were absorbed in watching a dinosaur show. Soon Bodine and Ace High had joined the long line of waiting citizens that snaked out of the old bus station. Everyone had stunglasses on. Some people were watching sports, some were watching old movies, some were watching sex, some were watching university extension courses.

Nobody was watching the November sunlight sliding across the street like nectar from the last flower of the year. And, of course, I was filled with hatred for television. From the present-day vantage, the story looks cyberpunk. William Gibson and I both had our first SF publications there. If an atom decays then the counter triggers and via a relay activates a little hammer which breaks a container of cyanide.

If one has left this entire system for an hour, then one would say that the cat is still living if no atom has decayed. The first decay would have poisoned it. The wave-function of the entire system would express this by containing equal parts of the living and the dead cat. By rights, this should have been an important scientific paper…not a thrilling wonder tale in some lurid, mass-produced edition.

But I must cast my net as wide as possible. Such are the facts: with my assistance, Ion Stepanek was able to build a sort of time-machine. He used this machine to produce a yes-and-no situation, which he tried to observe. As a result, he has split into an uncollapsible mixed state.

Due to coupling effects, I suffer his condition, though not yet to the same degree. It is March 21, , Heidelberg, West Germany. I am sitting in the office Stepanek shared with me, staring out at a white sky. The office is in the Physics Institute. Across the river, the great castle hovers over the misted town like a thought. Such are the facts. I did my undergraduate work at Stanford, then took my Ph. My thesis project helped lead to the first experimental disproof of the Bell inequality. At one time this was a fairly sensational result, although now more and more people have accepted the ultimate validity of the wave-function world-view.

The cat is in what is known as a mixed state. But the experimental disproof of the Bell inequality has shown that Einstein was wrong. The unobserved world evolves into truly mixed states. There are no hidden parameters which make things stay definite. It is thanks, in part, to my own research that this result was proved. But despite this high achievement, I was unable to obtain a good research or teaching post.

I make enemies easily, and it may be that one of my letters of recommendation was, in effect, a black-ball. I postponed the inevitable with a post-doc at Harvard. But after that I had to take a poorly paying job at a state college in Wankato, Minnesota. Cut off from any real physics laboratory, I was forced to begin thinking more deeply about the experiments I had run at Harvard and at Berkeley. By itself reality is not at all unclear or contradictory.

There is a difference between a blurred or poorly-focused photograph and a picture of clouds or fog patches. I had a nervous breakdown during my fourth year at Wankato. It had to do with the television weather reports. Quantum mechanics implies that until someone makes an observation , the weather is indeterminate, in a mixed state. There is, in principle, no reason why it should not be sunny every day. Indeed, it is logically possible to argue that it rains only because people believe it to be raining. Before too long I thought I had determined the reason for this.

All of the citizens of Wankato…even the faculty members…watch television weather reports every evening. These reports almost always predict rain or snow. It seemed obvious to me, in my isolation, that if the weather reports could be stopped, then it would not rain so often. I tried, unsuccessfully, to gather signatures for a petition.

I went to the TV station and complained. Finally, I forced my way into the studio one evening and interrupted the weather report to state my case. The next day it was sunny. But I was out of a job, and in a mental institution. It was clear that I needed a rest. It had been folly to shift my fellows over so abruptly from one belief system to another. I had neglected the bridge, the mixed state.

That was in March, A year ago. They let me out after six weeks of treatment. As luck would have it, a letter from a German research foundation was waiting for me when I finally got back to my little furnished room. They had approved my application for a one-year grant, to be spent working with Ion Stepanek at the Physics Institute of the University of Heidelberg. My project title? On a typical Heidelberg day it is misty. On the Neckar River the vapor hangs in networks, concentrated at the boundaries of atmospheric pressure cells.

The old town is squeezed between the river and a steep mountainside. Some hundred meters up the mountain hangs the huge, ruined castle. In the mist it looks weightless, phantasmagoric. I got there in early September, during semester break. Strange feelings always filled me on these bus rides. I never seemed to see the same face twice, and the strangeness of it put me at a remove from reality. Never had I tasted alienation in such a pure and unalloyed form.

Half convinced that I was invisible, I would stare greedily at the German women, at their thick blonde hair and their strong features. The women stared back with bold and clinical eyes. I gave my heart a thousand times, without ever saying a word. But I could never muster the courage to approach one of those tantalizing aliens. I am, after all, soft and funny-looking. On a normal day I would get out at Bismarckplatz and walk over the bridge. Crossing the Neckar always took me a long time. In the middle of the bridge I would stop and watch the fifty-meter-long barges speeding by beneath me.

The river is like a highway, with coal and wrecked cars being lugged upstream, and great beams of steel gliding downstream. There are the locks to see, and the hazy old town, and above it all, the great hallucinatory castle. Other darker thoughts detained me on the bridge as well. Why do you think Munch chose to place this most anguished figure in modern art…on a bridge?

On a bridge one is neither here nor there; one is rootless…and anything can happen. Did you know that in the s the most commonly attempted method of suicide was none other than…jumping off a bridge? Out there, in the wind, one need not choose this bank or that. There are other alternatives. During my first two months in Heidelberg, the Institute was deserted.

Professional Records

As I later learned, Stepanek was spending the semester break visiting relatives in Budapest. Both he and his wife, Klara, were Hungarian refugees. The first time I met Stepanek, he caught me by surprise. I had spent those first lonely months at the Institute by going over various treatments of the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox.

Experiment 1: Lucky Number

Ion Stepanek was a short, wiry man, given to wearing suede vests and jackets. His hair was thinning, and rather greasy. He had a large nose and a wide, amused mouth. His eyes were very quick, and he had a disconcerting habit of staring me in the eye when he sensed I might be holding something back. Although he was ten years my senior and, nominally, my supervisor, Ion began by treating me as an equal.

He had read my experimental work and my recent, unpublishable theorizings. In return I had read everything he had written, even including a stack of freshly typed pages I had found on his desk. His sharp eyes took in my diagram of the EPR paradox, and then he turned to gesture at the window. Do you like the fog?

The indeterminacy? Stepanek savored the moment, then clapped me on the shoulder. He plucked the thought out of my eyes and answered it. I nodded. One can so easily produce a yes-and-no situation with a time-machine. Ion smiled widely, mirthlessly. This is just what you want. We dropped the matter for then, and went on to discuss the bus routes, my apartment, the restaurants…the minutiae of life in a foreign country.

Ion insisted on taking me home with him for the midday meal. His house was only a few hundred meters from the Institute. His wife, Klara, greeted me like a long-lost cousin. It is wonderful that you are here! A perfect wife, a perfect mother. How comfortable she made me feel!

I accepted a glass of kirsch before lunch. Then the two children, twin ten-year-old girls, came crashing in. Besides the soup, there was a roast stuffed with hot sausage, a platter of fried potatoes, creamed spinach, cucumber salad, smoked cheese, two kinds of salami, dishes of pickled peppers, and a large carafe of excellent white wine. The twins giggled, and Ion laughed appreciatively. William is already learning the art of Hungarian exaggeration. A Hungarian is never happy without being ecstatic, never sad without being suicidal, never your friend without being ready to give you everything he owns, never displeased without being ready to kill.

But there was, for all that, a consciously playful element to their exaggerations which somehow kept them from ever being oppressive. Klara was thirty-five, about halfway in age between Ion and I. Before long I was thoroughly infatuated with her, and flirted shamelessly. Ion must have noticed, but perhaps he welcomed the excitement for Klara.

Or perhaps he pitied me too much to object. I got in the habit of dropping my spoon at most of our frequent common meals. She could feel my gaze, and would slowly rub her nylons against each other. When I sat up she would give me a look of dreamy speculation, her full lips parted to show a few of her perfect teeth. I hoped my hopes and dreamed my dreams. Meanwhile, Ion and I were working long hours on our joint project. His intention was to push the Feynman time-reversal theory of antimatter hard enough to get time-travel. He had the clout to get the necessary components and material—some of them totally new.

My job was to assemble the components into a working system. There is something magical about scientific apparatus. A witch doctor assembles decorated stones, special herbs, pieces of rare animals…and he expects that putting these valued objects together will cause something unusual to happen.

Spirit voices, levitation, miracle cures …. The constructions of engineers and physicists are not really so different. Bits of etched silicon, special chemicals, oddly shaped pieces of metal…the experimentalist places them together, and suddenly one has a radio, or an airplane, or an X-ray machine. Quarkonium is, strangely enough, neither matter nor antimatter.

Stolen Child

The stuff exists in some fantastically charged tension between the two. The fact that quarkonium is thus hyperstable made it possible that, in certain circumstances, the phase-mirrors could emit or absorb almost their entire mass-energy without disintegrating.

Two of the thin, inflexible quarkonium plates were square, and four were longish rectangles. I assembled the six into a box, setting an evacuation nozzle into the hole with which one plate had been provided. The material was strange to work with, slippery and utterly rigid. Although they were supposed to be a sort of mirror, the plates did not reflect images in any ordinary way…at least not most of the time. We spent forty-eight hours pumping the box out to a state of near-perfect vacuum, and then sealed it off.

While the pump was running, Ion instructed me to mount a series of wire loops on the table, loops which could be charged to produce a weakly guiding magnetic field. We set the box in the middle of the loops, and that was about it. A transparent box like an aquarium with a glass top. Ion called the box a time-tunnel, but I found this colorful description misleading. We ran our first tests with an electron beam. The idea was that a signal could come out of one end of the box before it went in the other. We got the results Ion had predicted, so we moved up to atomic nuclei, and then to a series of larger and larger iron bullets.

Shooting the bullets into that phase-mirror box made me a little nervous…. I expected the box to shatter. I assumed it was because the quarkonium plates were, in some sense, liquid, and thus able to close up after a rapid enough object. I believed that for a while, anyway. But where was the energy coming from?

And where did it go? Ion had an explanation. But I was not ready to accept his description of what we had built. That way lay madness. The twins had already left the table to do their homework. I glanced at Ion, and he gave me an encouraging nod. Until now I had been sworn to silence. Klara looked a bit nervous at my question. Ion was, I had learned, something of a philanderer. What a fool to betray a woman as wonderful as Klara!

She tilted her head back, away from the smoke, and looked at Ion questioningly. He smiled his broad, mirthless smile. Klara arched her eyebrows at me.

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Perhaps you have solved the energy crisis? This is a very expensive machine to build. We have used most of the quarkonium in the world to build it. But Ion thinks …. Ion was pouring himself a glass of wine, and the carafe clattered against his glass. We have built a time-machine. She blew a thick stream of smoke and put out her cigarette. Then I could see what the castle looked like in , before the French blew it up.

And fashions one thousand years from now. Ion was breathing heavily. He had had several glasses of kirsch before lunch. This quarrel had been brewing for three months. Ion could see this in my eyes. He stood up suddenly, almost as if to attack me. Was he, on top of it all, jealous of my attentions to Klara? I tried to keep this out of my eyes. I stood up clumsily, and my chair fell to the floor behind me. Ion acquiesced, on the condition that they bring a certain toy. We all bundled into our coats…Klara wore a charming fox coat sewed in herring-bone strips…and we walked the three blocks to the Physics Institute.

The twins ran ahead of us, screaming and trying to slide on the frozen puddles. Klara walked between Ion and me, linking an arm with each of us. The sky was low and grey. The eternal mist seemed to form a circular wall around us, always ten meters off. Ion pursed his lips and shook his head. Klara has to see it to believe it. And if we shoot a bullet through it, the bullet seems to come out the right end before it goes in the left. Klara laughed. We could use one of your machines in the tunnel under the castle…where those dreadful traffic jams are.

The twins had brought the little car, a bright red-yellow-blue mass of Lego blocks. On the top was a battery-run motor, with a cog wheel linked by a black plastic chain to a gear on the single front wheel. The core of it was the shoe-box-sized vacuum chamber made of phase-mirrors. You could see in quite easily. The thick loops of the guiding-field wires arched over the box like croquet wickets. I removed the rifle from its mount on one end of the lab-table, and waited while Ion got the car from the little girls.

Then, bustling a bit, he lined up his three women in chairs against the wall, and set the car down at one end of the table. I cleared my throat, preparatory to telling them what they might expect, but Ion shushed me. The Lego car made a pretty big test-particle. In all frankness, I expected the experiment to be a failure. The car would roll up to the phase-mirror box, bump into the side and stop…nothing more. But I was wrong. As the little car labored across the table towards the left end of the box, something happened at the right end.

Seemingly out of no place, an identical Lego car pushed out of the right end of the tunnel and went chuffing on its way! She was right. For a few seconds there were three Lego cars on the table. Car 2 : The one moving in the tunnel, from right to left. Car 3 : The new one moving away from the right end of the tunnel. And then car 1 and car 2 met at the left-end mirror. They melted into each other…nose into nose, wheel into wheel, tail into tail.

It was like watching a Rorschach ink-blot disappear into its central fold. One of the twins squealed and ran to catch car 3 before it ran off the other end of the lab table. I took it from her and examined it closely. Car 3 appeared to be identical to car 1. We had already done this experiment with electrons and with small bullets…but one bullet or electron is much like another.

But it certainly looked as if car 3 really was car 1. If we think of the zigzag line as the history of a particular object, what we have is this: First, car 1 goes forward in time till it gets to the left phase-mirror. Second, inside the tunnel it flips and moves backwards in time, but still left-to-right, and we call it car 2. Third, upon passing through another phase-mirror it flips back to run forward in time again, and is called car 3.

By evolving into car 3 , the original car 1 manages to come out of the right end a few seconds earlier than it goes in the left. Just think of moving that space-axis upwards through time, and see what happens. Then suddenly something happens at the right end of the tunnel. Car 2 and car 3 come into existence together—by a process called pair-production.

Car 3 is matter and car 2 is antimatter. With enough energy present, you can convert zero Lego blocks into plus-forty-nine Lego blocks and minus-forty-nine Lego blocks. You can get something from nothing…as long as you get anti-something too. My voice was baying evangelically. Ion hid a smile by pretending to rub his nose. Matter plus antimatter makes pure energy. But quantum mechanics does allow for action at a distance.

Advanced potentials. Klara looked quite blank by now. I broke off the exposition and made my point. Car 2 is antimatter traveling forward in time, not car 1 traveling backwards in time. And car 3 is just a sort of correction term. Klara looked from one of us to the other, smiling a bit. Whether the thing in the tunnel is a particle going backwards in time or an anti-particle going forward in time. She had to break off and grab one of the twins, who had been about to try to stick her finger into a phase-mirror. A smell was filling the room, and we noticed that the other twin had opened one of the propane gas-valves set in the table.

And William, you must be very clever to have helped Ion build this! I picked up the toy car and examined it closely. Even I had trouble believing my description of what had happened. How would the right end know to produce pairs in the right order to build up car and anti-car from nose to wheel to tail? And where would the energy have come from? Granted that a fantastic amount of energy was stored in the fantastically expensive quarkonium, but still …. Ion was sitting at his desk writing, his back to me.

Despite what Klara had said, the two descriptions did not come to the same thing. Was this car the same as the original car, or was it only an identical copy? I had to know! Suddenly I thought of a way to test the difference. I would let the car roll towards the tunnel, and at the last minute I would stop it from going in. A decisive experiment. Suppose Ion was right. Suppose that car 3 was just a time-traveled car 1. What then? If car 1 did not go in the tunnel, then car 2 and car 3 would not come into existence. But suppose I was right. Car 2 and car 3 would already have been created even if, at the very last second, car 1 did not actually enter the tunnel.

I started the car and set it down. I fixed my mind on grabbing the car at the last possible instant before it went through the…looking-glass. I leaned over the table, concentrating. I seized car 1 just before its nose touched the phase-mirror. Then I stepped back and looked down the table.

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There was no car 3 at the other end…and no antimatter car 2 at my end. Ion was right. A car moving right to left is the same as a car moving left to right and backwards in time. Suddenly I could see the pair-production and the mutual annihilation as corners in time. Ion was right, he really was. We had time-travel, admittedly over just a three-second range, but time-travel nonetheless. Even the strange fact that the phase-mirrors turned things backwards as well as reversing them in time made sense. The fact that the front of the car moved backwards in time as soon as it passed through the left end meant that a normal observer had to see it as disappearing first.

But how does the car get through the phase-mirrors? They felt so hard when I was gluing them together. Ion shrugged. It is the property of a mirror to produce images. But this particular mirror works only when the guiding-field is on. As I said the word to myself, my last remaining question dissolved. If car 1 was car 2 was car 3 , then no mass or anti-mass at all was really being created or destroyed. So of course there were no huge energy drains or blasts going on. Looked at differently, the quarkonium plates were a closed system which could pass energy back in time…so the pair-producing drew its energy from the annihilation, even though it happened first.

The next question: What if one were to stop car 1 if and only if car 3 has already appeared? The fear. Suddenly fatherly, he patted me on the shoulder. I want to write all of this up before…before I continue. I nodded and left him there. I spent the next few hours drinking Schlossquell beer, and then I went to the Eros House, a shabby building full of legal prostitutes. With the lights off, I could almost believe I was with Klara.

Later I had more beer. I slept badly that night. In the dream, through some transmutation, the Heidelberg castle is… science. Endless corridors, doors, people to meet. On the white plaster walls there are things like fire-alarms, little hammers mounted over glass plates.

Behind the glass is… cyanide , thick gas, swirling, deadly. I hurry down a hallway, a sheaf of papers in my hand. Someone is in front of me, tangible, but invisible. My other self? Somehow the person moves so as to always be in my blind spot. A question is posed, the unspeakable question which the castle itself embodies. My tongue is slow and sticky. Yes and no. A bell is tolling. The hammers quiver…. The world is clouds and fog patches, a confused smear which no magical apparatus can sharpen up. The cat knows. That morning I found Ion sitting at his desk.

He was asleep, with his head on his crossed arms. One of the phase-mirrors was cracked! Had Ion had some sort of tantrum? I examined the hairline crack. Of course the vacuum was ruined now. I wondered if the quarkonium plate could be repaired. There were some individual Lego-blocks scattered around the floor and table. Apparently Ion had been there all night. I stood over him for a moment, looking at him with something like affection. I had been worried, too worried to even ….

His eyes flickered open, then shut. This struck me as a very odd question. It was, in fact, a marvelously sunny day, the first taste of spring. The sky was a delicate blue and the birds were singing. And I thought it was raining. There seemed to be something under his arms, some sort of pillow. I picked up the lab book lying on his desk. It started with a description of the apparatus and the first experiments we had conducted. Nothing new there. I flipped forward a few pages. There was a diagram like the one Ion had drawn for Klara.

Under it was a sketch of the Lego car and a description of the two experiments, the one where the car comes out of the time-tunnel before it goes in, and my variation, where the car is stopped from going in, and therefore does not come out. Ion had conducted a third experiment. The car was to roll towards the tunnel while he watched both ends. His plan was to stop car 1 if car 3 appeared, and to let car 1 go if car 3 did not appear. This meant that a car would come out of the right end of the tunnel if and only if no car came out of the right end of the tunnel. Yes if and only if no.

Think about it. Case I: Car 3 appears. So Ion stops car 1 from entering the tunnel.

On the road with His Bad Self.

So Ion lets car 1 into the tunnel. So car 3 appears. Question: When Ion actually ran the experiment, did car 3 appear? Answer: Yes and no. I closed the lab book and looked around the room. The scattered bits of Legos…how many? The two faces looked at me, each of them a bit translucent, a bit unreal. The phone began to ring. Eyes which reached deep into my mind. She sounded angry, accusing. Ion let the phone drop and walked over to the laboratory table.

The no-head, the mean one, was doing the talking. Whichever head was talking tended to be bigger. It was as if the silent head corresponded to some part of Ion which was father away…drifting towards some parallel universe. I ran the paradox. It had to come out both ways. It was dangerous to be restarting it without a vacuum in the chamber. The no-head bent down, peering into the cracked phase-mirror. He was still talking to me. Actually it feels…marvelous. I could feel myself going mad, as surely as cloth tearing.

I seized the phone to speak to her. There was a crash behind me. I whirled around. The time-tunnel was billowing smoke and the phase-mirrors had smashed into pieces. A tangle of twenty or a hundred thin necks writhed out of his open collar, and on the end of each tentacle-like neck rode a tiny grimacing head, and every little head was screaming at me in a terrible tiny voice….

He dispersed completely after that. Klara forged his signature on the letter. The wart-like little heads. Some look like me, and some look like him. I still have the specs for the time-tunnel. Mixed states happen all the time. Say someone asks you whether or not you want to kill yourself. But answering the question is like being born. You have to stick out a yes-head or a no-head to answer. And the other one has to get shaved off. It could be any question. Do you like milk? Who are you going to vote for? Are you happy? In a way, mixed states are nice. Not naming things, and not forcing them to be this way or that, but just…letting them go.

My original face. A mixed state. Out there, in the wind, one needs not choose this bank or that. My family and I lived in Heidelberg from to I was there on a two-year grant from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. The grant came through just as I was losing my first teaching job in Geneseo a. Wankato, a. My formal duties in Heidelberg were zero: I was given a soundproofed office and a typewriter. The second diagram for this story seems to suggest an interesting new result: that a time-reversing mirror would have to spatially mirror-reverse objects as well.

The seed for this story was a drawing I made for my cheerfully horrified children of a Santa Claus with a thousand heads, answering phone-calls from every boy and girl in the world at once. She was big. Fine big legs and white feathers glued all over her head. I had to have a piece of that. She brought me another bowl of slop and I gave her a thousand credit note. She dimpled and sat down across from me. Charlie and I had only been out of the Regulator for a month, but I was back up to keys already. I had an exoskeleton with gold chasing and rubies at the joints. Those white feathers on the bare scalp were a perfect touch.

She signaled the other waitress to cover for her. She rested her big breasts on her folded arms and leaned across the table. Soliton flange? She cooed sympathetically, and I decided to whip a little more out of it. It was a week before the landlord happened to open up our apartment. You had to go out to get food. They had stores. She made an O of her bright yellow lips, flexing her juicy tongue.


I looked at the room around us. You could eat for free at home, but people still liked to come out. They had some noise they called music, and things to look at glued to the walls. A car-wheel, a 2-D TV set, a formica table-top…and animals, lots of stuffed animals. Pollution had cut the gene pools that far and a domino effect was setting in. Suddenly everyone wanted a stuffed animal to remind them of our glorious heritage. The whole last generation of animals ended up on mantelpieces and barroom walls.

I used to spend a lot of time here back then. The menu they had! Have you ever even seen meat, baby? She smiled and shook her head. The statute of limitations had run out, but still …. I was just getting by, back then, living off computer fraud. It was easy…so easy I sometimes suspected the Feds had a special slot on the payroll for computer con-men. I figured I fell somewhere between wino and social worker. The night I met Charlie I was just sitting there looking at the beautiful golden skin of a roast chicken. Suddenly my table flipped over and the dishes went flying.

Lying on the floor in front of me was the fattest…hell, he was obese. It was hard, really, to even tell where his head was. There was just metal tubes and little motors and yards of bouncing cloth. He had fifty keys on me easy. You could tell from the way he had a deep crease circling his wrist. I only had those at my ankles. My servos followed suit and we shook. In a sense all really fat men look alike. But there are differences if you know how to look for them. I could tell that Charles Laxman was rich, educated and a little flaky.

I liked him already for being fatter than me, and it was clear from his clothes that he was rich. As usual I charged it to the OIT. Am I correct? His eyes were blank. He held up five fingers. Fifty million in gold. He wanted me to help him break the Bin. I figured he was crazy, but talk is just talk.