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whole day had been rainy.
house was old and it creaked as the wind from the storm blew against it. It was in a secluded part of town, with a few
neighbors down the road. He lived alone,
his job taking up most of his time so that he had never found a wife. The study which was the most important room
in the house as far as
He decided that as soon as he finished his mission report, which was going to the head of NASA, he would go to bed. It would be later than he liked, but the “go fever” required for working at NASA was strong in him. He was addicted to his work and constantly stayed up all hours of the night working. His days were long. He was usually at work from seven in the morning to eight at night and that was a short day for him.
Just as he started his last piece of
paperwork, the door to his study burst open, and a man who looked suspiciously
are you?” said
“You” replied the intruder.
“But how can that be? I have no brothers and sisters, and I have never been
“Remember what you were working on before you started at NASA? Your ideas were right, and I had the space craft built to go along with it.”
guess, I knew in theory that I could travel to parallel universes, but I had to
find out for sure. And knowing that I
might be able to see what my parallel universes’ selves were doing: it was just
too big of an opportunity to pass up.”
He half lied with this response.
He was telling the truth, he did want to see what this universe’s
were just a theory before
“So, what are you
doing?” asked the other
“Well, I’m just finishing up a report on our last mission. It was a real success. I think we’re coming close to having our new engine system work perfectly. It will speed up the time it takes to get to other stars and planets tenfold. It will be just as big a revolution in travel as the airplane was centuries ago. We just need to rerun the Atropos 5 experiments over again, make some final adjustments, and I think we’ll have it.”
“So, how did the
Atropos 5 mission turn out here?” asked the
“Well, we had an accident ten days into the mission, just like you. We got the crew back though. I thought we were going to lose them. We were lucky I guess.”
One night, just
after they finished the work for the night, they stayed up talking and eating ice-cream
for a while. The other
“Oh my god! What are you doing?” said
“The Atropos 5 mission- as you should well know, I was a mission controller, and it was going fine until about ten days into it. You should know that I wanted more than anything for the crew to make it back safely. Anyway, when it came down to crunch time I was worried but I knew that I could get them home. It was stressful.
“For three days I worked out the problems that occurred during the mission, and found answers as part of a team. Then, when it came down to one of my split second decisions, I didn’t know what to do. I was the best trained controller in the room, and I froze. The problem that came up on my screen I had never seen before. Nothing close to it had ever shown up in any simulation I had ever been in. I thought of what could be done and only came up with one solution, but I wasn’t sure if it would work. I told CAPCOM what should be done but I hesitated first. It was an unconscious decision, my hesitating, but it was enough for our universes to split apart at that time. CAPCOM tried to tell the ship how to fix their problem, but it was too late.”
“That’s not how it
The room became
“I know,” said the intruder. “At least here that’s what happened. All fifteen of the crew were killed in my universe. I felt horrible, but stayed at NASA. I was offered a few more mission control positions on some of the later flights, but I weaseled my way out of them. I told my boss once that I had family visiting during the time that the mission was supposed to happen, and it might be better to assign someone else the job because my mind would not be on the task at hand. It took a while but I started getting other assignments, away from the control room. I felt better at these, but I still couldn’t forgive myself for what I had done.
“So, instead of concentrating on my work, I daydreamed about my earlier years: where lives were not in my hands, when the biggest stress from my job was trying to understand complex ideas. Eventually I started researching again. I had all of my old notes so it wasn’t too hard.
“Several months after I started, I figured out a way to travel to a parallel universe. The metal needed to withstand the stress of the wormhole was developed by NASA a few years beforehand for one of their interstellar missions, but it had never been tested. Somehow, I convinced my bosses I needed to be the astronaut on the test mission. I traveled to a nearby star, just like planned but I didn’t stay on course on my way back. I broke off communication with the mission controllers and headed toward the nearest plausible spot for a wormhole. With luck I found one, and traveled here.”
“What does this
have to do with me? I’ll do what ever
you want. Just don’t do anything. Don’t kill me.”
At this point the
room became silent again.
“Well, you live in
the universe where everything came out right.
I’m not supposed to be a failure, and I failed on the Atropos 5
mission. I’m going to replace you. I’ve been studying your mission reports after
the Atropos 5 mission. I know them
inside and out. I’m going to be
you. I’ll be regarded as an expert in my
field again. I’ll be able to go to work
and the people who work with me won’t know that my actions killed anyone. I am you.”
With that final statement, the
For the next few weeks, he went to work. No one he worked with noticed that anything was out of the ordinary. The weeks turned into months and he was the one who everyone looked up to and wanted to be again. His only problem was that he still knew what he had done to the astronauts in his original universe. This along with killing his other self to get what he wanted started haunting him. He killed someone to escape the fact that his actions had killed.
holidays had come and gone several times.
He was alone then, just as he normally was, but his guilty feelings
became worse at that time of the year.
Something about that season being the season of joy, and
night about two years after his first arrival in this universe, he took out the
gun that he used to kill his other self with.
He wondered what it was like to be shot.
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