Category: Future Space

A Vision of Iron

I’m interrupting my regular post schedule for something a little different: another guest post. My oldest children collaborated on a story and I’m pleased to feature it here! “A Vision of Iron” by Joshua Bird. The illustration is by Sarah Bird. Please let them know in the comments what you think.

Ralf had just worked the whole day and was exhausted. They were close to a breakthrough, he
could feel it! They had worked at the lab for twenty years on this project. And soon, it would be done.
The excitement from these thoughts momentarily chased away the drowsiness from his eyes as he began
together the final preparations for tomorrow’s test.

A few minutes later, everything was in place, and Ralf walked to his living quarters in the
facility. He thought back two decades ago. He had tried to gain funding from numerous sources for his
project, but was continually rejected due to its cost. When the military offered to fund it with a few
conditions, he accepted. What other choice did he have?

Soon, Ralf reached his quarters. He changed into sleeping garments, turned out the light,
and soon was fast asleep.

Some hours later, Ralf woke up eagerly. “At last! Today at long last, it will work. I can feel it.”
exclaimed Ralf. He quickly changed clothes, ate a light meal, and hurried to the laboratory. He was the
first to arrive, but soon enough, the other researcher trickled in. Eventually, the army officers responsible
for overseeing the project arrived. A jovial feeling filled the air as the various researchers complemented
each other for the hard work of the last twenty years.

Finally, the officers gave permission to begin the test. Researchers activated power and the
various systems began booting up. Ralf prepared to begin the program. Five years of waiting, two years of
searching for funding, and twenty years of hard work, had all led up to this!

Ralf entered the commands and started the program. Ten anxious minutes later, a message appeared on
the screen. “Greetings, everyone! My systems are functioning perfectly. I think, therefore, I am.”

Everyone cheered. The researchers patted each other on the back congratulating each other,
while the officers applauded. And Ralf? He smiled and spoke to the world’s first successful AI, “Hello, my

Allergic to Now

Once upon a time there was a woman named Martha who had time-traveling sneezes. Every time she sneezed, she had to go check the date. Allergy season was the worst.

The time-traveling started small. She moved to a new town after college, and got into a terrible car accident driving into town. It took a year to heal, and the car was totaled She developed allergies to something in the new environment while in the hospital. The sneezing didn’t always move her in time at first, and when it did, she didn’t go far.

By the time she realized what was happening, she had lost her own time all together. She tried a few times to visit a doctor to see if there was some sort of medical explanation, but they never seemed to believe her. Unless she sneezed in their office, of course. Well, she assumed they believed her after that, but she really didn’t have any proof. She never saw the same doctor twice.

It was lovely to see so much history, but as she didn’t travel in space, just time, then she wasn’t able to keep a job and earn money to travel anywhere else. Even if she could, money seemed more time-specific than you’d think. Sometimes there was a train out of town, sometimes a boat. A few times she watched people fly off in hover cars. But, she couldn’t afford to take any of them.

If it weren’t for the periodic visits to a time where it was easier to hunt and gather, she probably would have starved. As it was, things were growing worse. The sneezes were growing closer together, and every time she visited was in the middle of allergy season.

She wasn’t sure what would happen when she couldn’t stop sneezing all together. She couldn’t get a signal on her cell phone to check. She always visited either before her phone plan started or after it had lapsed.

Once, in a moment of desperation, she called her childhood phone number from a public phone with change scrounged from a fountain, uncertain of what else to do. “Mom? It’s Martha.”

“Martha who?”

“Your daughter. You have to believe me!”

When her mother hung up, Martha checked the date at a newspaper stand. She was visiting a time where she was still three years old. Of course her mother didn’t believe her.

The sneezes came even quicker. An apple orchard. A village. A spaceport. A large city. Was that dinosaurs?

It was all blurs now. It was getting hard to breathe between sneezes. And then she sneezed one last explosive sneeze.

Something flew from her lungs and burned the whole way up her throat and out of her mouth. A spark flickered in front of her eyes, and then it flared brighter, white and blue. What was it?

Around them, the world spun in tight circles, but in the circle, time stood still for a moment. And then the bright light was gone, taking with it all the light and heat. Martha could breathe again.

She gasped in one breath, then two. And then the world was dark.

Martha blinked. She was driving her little car that she hadn’t seen in decades or years or centuries or however long ago she finished college, and it was dark. Did she have the headlights on?

She almost glanced down to flick them on, when she remembered this moment. She swerved right, onto the shoulder, and slammed on her brakes. A car driving in the wrong lane barreled through the spot where she’d just been. It was followed by two more cars, driving equally fast.

Moments later, a bright light flashed on the other side of the road, white and blue. It blinked three times and vanished. Martha turned her car off and sat in the dark for a long time after that.

A week later, Martha moved away from the town she’d spent so much time in. She found a job on the other side of the country, and carefully studied the history of her new town, just in case. She also got a prescription for antihistamines and was always extra careful about handwashing and taking vitamin c pills.

Waking up in her own bed in her own time every morning never got old. And sneezes never grew any less frightening. Even though she’d neglected to write down any winning lottery numbers from the future, Martha was glad to be stuck in one time. She was finally home, and she lived happily ever after.

Brothers in Time

Once upon a time, far in the future, three brothers set out to seek their fortune. Fortunately for them, their father was a brilliant, yet somewhat mad, inventor. So he gave each of them a time machine as they set out on their adventure.

The youngest brother decided to live in a tropical climate before people invented the wheel or fire or tools. He decided that would give him plenty to impress the people with, and life would be easy. And it was, for a time.

Unfortunately, before long, someone came knocking on his door. “We’re the time guardians, let us in,” a deep voice said.

“There’s no such thing,” the youngest brother replied.

“We’re from the future, sent to fix past events that were messed up by unregulated time travel,” the voice said.

“If you’re from my future, shouldn’t you leave me alone as part of the past?” the brother threw his things into a bag and grabbed his time machine.

“Let us in, and we’ll talk about it,” the voice said. The door creaked as it began to open.

The youngest brother grabbed his time machine and set it to home in on his brothers. It took him to the nearest one, the middle brother. He was living in Renaissance Italy.

When the youngest brother arrived, the middle brother was in the middle of a discussion with a number of important scholars. The youngest brother hid until they left, and then he hurried into the house. “Brother, guess what?”

“What are you doing here?” the middle brother asked, looking annoyed.

“There are time guardians from the future trying to stop us from changing anything in the past.” The youngest brother looked around. “Hey, are you going to eat that? I missed bread more than I thought I would.”

The middle brother passed him the loaf, looking thoughtful. “Time guardians? Are you sure?”

The youngest brother nodded. “They said they were from our future.”

“If they’re from our future, shouldn’t they leave us alone as part of the past?”

“That’s what I said!” The youngest brother looked out the window. “Hey, are you expecting company?”

“No, why?”

The youngest brother pointed. “There’s a group of people headed this way. Oh, here they are.”

Someone knocked on the door. “We’re the time guardians, let us in,” a deep voice said.

“There’s no such thing,” the middle brother said. He quickly packed a bag and grabbed his time machine. He looked at the youngest brother, who was already setting the machine to jump to their oldest brother.

“We’re from the future –” the voice began, but the brothers left before they could hear the end of the sentence.

The youngest brother was still holding the loaf of bread. He chewed on it as he looked around. “Where are we?”

“Moon Base Alpha,” the oldest brother said, stepping away from the sink and wiping his hands on his coveralls. “They needed a permanent maintenance worker, and I was familiar enough with the technology to impress them. I got the job.”

“But didn’t they abandon that base when the funding ran out?” the middle brother asked.

“Yes, and it was self-sustaining,” the oldest brother said. “I think I can make a case for staying on and maintaining things if I volunteer my time for room and board.”

“But won’t you get lonely?” the youngest brother asked.

“Video chats. Plus, they’ll develop teleporters soon enough. If the base is in good working order, maybe they’ll select it as a tourist site or a historical monument.” The oldest brother shrugged. “I thought it was worth the risk.”

“Do they need any more maintenance workers?” the middle brother asked. “We need a place to hide from the time guardians.”

“There’s no such thing,” the oldest brother said.

“Yes there is. They’re from our future,” the youngest brother said. “They want us to stop messing with the past.”

“If they’re from our future, shouldn’t they leave us alone as part of the past?”

“That’s what I said,” the youngest and middle brothers said together.

The oldest brother sighed. “Tell me what you know.”

The other two brothers shrugged. “That’s pretty much it,” the youngest brother admitted.

“You didn’t stay and talk to them? Of course you didn’t.” The oldest brother shook his head.

Just then, someone knocked on the door. “We’re the time guardians, let us in,” a deep voice said.

“Coming,” said the oldest brother. He let them in.

The men in spacesuits took off their helmets after they came through the air locks. They sat down on the chairs in the lobby of the station across from the three brothers. “We’re from the future,” one of the men began in a deep voice.

“And you don’t want us to change the past,” the youngest brother said.

“That’s right,” the man said.

“What about maintaining it?” the oldest brother asked. “Can we get permission for that? Or research? There must be some way that we can use our time machines without hurting the past or the future.”

“Of course there is,” the man said. “Let me give you some of the paperwork with the rules you need to follow. If you are willing to agree to the rules, and come to the future for some training, we would be happy to allow you to continue to use your time machines.”

And so the brothers read the rules and went to the training. The youngest brother joined the time guardians. The middle brother became a historian. The oldest brother continued to live on the moon. And they all lived happily long before they were born.

The end.

The Little Spaceship That Could

Once there was a mighty civilization that lived on a dying planet. The sun was growing larger and the planet was overheating to the point that living there just wasn’t possible for much longer. Fortunately, the civilization had already built a colony on another planet, far away from the growing sun.

Unfortunately, the colony planet was on the other side of the galaxy. There was only enough time to make one trip. And so, the civilization threw all its resources into building space ships and gathering resources for the journey.

The politicians all promised that there would be room for everyone on the spaceships. Everyone was calm as they began to plan and pack and prepare. Eventually, it was time to load up the spaceships and send them on their way.

The trouble started when there were only three spaceships left. The last group of people on the list had nowhere to go. The spaceships were all full.

The group hurried over to the largest, newest spaceship before it could take off. The leader of the group, an older man who had done a lot of good for his community, called for the ship’s captain to come meet with them. After a long wait, the captain met them at the staging area just outside the ship.

“You have the biggest, newest ship. Won’t you make room for us so that we aren’t left behind?” the man asked.

The captain frowned. “My ship is loaded to capacity. Regulations say that it isn’t safe to add extra weight beyond the maximum recommendations. I will not risk the lives of those already aboard.”

“But if we’re left behind, we’ll all die. Can’t we ask some scientists if there is some way to redistribute the load to safely add a few more passengers?” the old man pleaded.

The captain shook his head. “It was scientists who designed the ship and decided on the safety standards after numerous tests. They were experts on this ship. Why consult anyone else? I’m sorry that I cannot help you.”

He returned to his ship, and sealed the door. The warning lights came on and the group hurried out of the staging area. The large, shiny new spaceship took off and left the dying planet behind.

The group turned to the next ship. It was as large as the first, but older. It had traveled to the colony planet more than once, and was considered a safe, reliable ship.

The leader of the group called for the ship’s captain. The captain met with them at the door of the ship. “Will this take long?” he asked. “I’m already behind schedule.”

The leader pointed out the group behind him. “Could you make room for our group? The ships are full, and if we’re left behind we’ll all die.”

The captain shook his head. “I’m sorry. My ship is old, and it’s completely full. I know what it can handle, and I wouldn’t risk adding any more weight. It just isn’t safe.”

The old man looked back at his group. “Can’t you leave something behind? Surely you can make room for at least some of us? There will be resources to make up what was lost when you arrive at the new colony.”

The captain sighed and ran his hand through his hair until it stood on end. “I’m sorry, I really am. Unfortunately, we’re already behind schedule. We just don’t have time to take inventory again and debate what we could leave behind. I’ve gone over the list so many times. I’m afraid that we just can’t help you.”

He closed the door and the warning lights went on. The group hurried away as the ship took off. Only the smallest, oldest ship was left. Feeling almost hopeless, the group approached the ship.

The leader called for the captain. The captain met them at the door. “There are people left here?” the captain asked in surprise. “Did you know this is the last ship?”

“Yes, we know,” the leader said. “Can you make room for us?”

“Of course I can,” the captain said. “If you’re left behind, you’ll all die.”

The captain called for a few of his officers. “We have to make room,” he told them.

“With extra people, we won’t need all those blankets,” the first said.

“Blankets don’t take up much room,” the second pointed out. “Let’s rip out the chairs. We can sit on the floor.”

“We can throw out our shoes and hats, too,” the first said. “Who needs those in space?”

“We don’t need doors.”

“We don’t need chocolate.”

“Let’s not get crazy,” the captain said. “Of course we need chocolate. Get rid of the bed frames and tables instead.”

The crew and passengers spent the next few hours building a towering pile of things to leave behind. The ship was still a little heavier than expected, but the captain wasn’t worried.

“If we can make it out of the atmosphere, the rest is smooth sailing,” he assured everyone.

They huddled close during countdown. The ship took off. As they sped through the atmosphere, everyone in the ship could hear the captain quietly tell them through the intercom, “We can do this. Our ship can do this. In a few minutes, the worst will be over. We can do this.”

He was right. The ship made it through the atmosphere just fine. It was a little uncomfortable crossing the galaxy without tables and chairs and bed frames, but at least there was chocolate.

The passengers and crew of the little-ship-that-could went down in legend. Great leaders and inventors and heroes in the colony planet could trace their family lines to the people who traveled there on the little ship.

Many years after the voyage, a researcher interviewed the last surviving passenger, who had been a little girl during the journey. “Why do you think so many great innovators traveled on that particular ship?” the researcher asked.

“We knew that we could do anything. The captain told us so, and he was right.”


The Three Little Colonies

Once upon a time, there was an advanced civilization that was living in a solar system that circled a very old star. The failing star was growing too large, and the solar system was no longer a nice place to live.

So, the civilization packed itself into three large ships and left to seek its fortune in the wide, wide galaxy. They traveled together as much as they could, but each ship was under the direction of its own captain with their own ideas of what to look for in a new home. Finally the time came where they went their separate ways.

The first ship decided to stop at a planet that already had a lovely atmosphere. There was lots of clean water and plants growing. The natives were small and easily overlooked. All that was required to settle down was to land the ship and open the doors. They didn’t even build separate structures to live in for years and years.

The second ship found a pleasant little planet to settle on. It was a little close to the star it orbited, but that just meant that it stayed nice and warm. It didn’t have much atmosphere, but that was easily fixed with a little work. After that it was a matter of adding the necessary water and plant life. They built some simple structures and settled in after a decade or so of hard work.

The last ship searched and searched. They finally found a menacing gas giant. “Perfect,” the captain said. “We’ll certainly be safe here.”

They were indeed safe, but it took decades to build structures that would sustain the colony as they grew into their new home. It wasn’t easy, but they were thinking long-term. In the end, they built a beautiful home that would protect the colony as it grew, hidden in the swirling storms of their new planet.

And then one day, a thousand years into the future, a war-like civilization sent out ships to find new places and people to conquer. It didn’t take them long to check the planet with the lovely atmosphere. When the people living there looked into the sky and saw the invading ships, they ran to their initial transport vessel and locked themselves in.

The invading aliens hailed the ship. Their picture showed up on the view screen. They had sharp teeth and long claws and leathery skin. They were terrifying. “Little friends,” the captain said, smiling falsely. “Won’t you let us come in?”

The captain surreptitiously pulled some wires out of place in the main console. “I’m sorry,” he said politely. “The doors are broken. See?” He pushed some buttons. “They don’t work. I guess we’re stuck.”

“Oh don’t worry,” the invading captain said, just as politely. “We have a laser cannon. We’ll just blast down the door and let you out.”

They both cut the connection on their view screens. The people on the transport ship teleported to the nearest sister-ship and set their ship to self-destruct before they left. They ended up on the pleasantly warm little planet with the new atmosphere and settled in quickly with their long-lost relatives.

The invaders saw the self-destruct countdown in time to quickly exit the ship, but not in time to counter it. They approached the blast crater with sour looks on their lizard-like faces. “We can send home for some settlers, but we’d have to build from scratch. The lazy laggards who settled here did almost nothing, and they didn’t even leave behind any workers to do the work for us under our kind supervision.”

And so the invaders left behind settlers of their own and continued searching the galaxy for worlds to conquer. All too soon, they found the pleasantly warm planet and prepared to attack. Meanwhile, the citizens of the planet fled to their transport ship and locked themselves inside.

“Little friends,” the invading captain said and smiled wide, showing his sharp teeth. “Won’t you let us come in?”

The captain begin scribbling frantically, just out of sight of the screen. “I’m sorry,” he said politely and held up the scribbled note. “It says here that visiting hours are from noon to four, and you’ve just missed it. Perhaps you can come back another day or find someone else to visit.”

The invading captain smiled even wider. “But we’ve come all this way. We simply must come in,” he said politely. “Don’t get up. We have a laser cannon. We’ll just blast down the door and let ourselves in.”

They cut the connection and the citizens in the transport ship teleported themselves to the last remaining sister ship. They, of course, set their ship to self-destruct before they left.

Looking into a second blast crater, the invading captain growled. “Once could be overlooked,” he said at last, “But twice is unforgivable. We will find them, and then they will be truly sorry.”

Using the best of their tracking abilities, the invaders finally found themselves outside an inhospitable gas giant. The pilot looked at the gas giant. “Are we really going in there?”

“Hail them from here,” the captain said. The view screen crackled, but there was a tenuous connection. “Little friends,” the captain said with a grin. “Won’t you let us come in?”

The audio crackled, but there was no reply.

“Get the laser cannon ready,” the captain said. “We’ll just blast down the doors.”

But after flying through frightening storms for hours without seeing any doors, the crew became mutinous. “I don’t think there’s anyone really here,” someone grumbled at the back of the flight deck. “They must have passed close enough to confuse our sensors and hide their trail. We’ve lost them.”

In the end, the captain had to agree that they were probably right. They left to conquer other worlds. Thousands of years later, their home world would be hit by a meteor that would wipe out their civilization, leaving the colonies independent as the home world suffered through an ice age that lasted for millions of years.

And the three colonies living on the gas giant, reunited at last, lived there happily ever after. They are probably living there still. Who knows? It’s not like it’s easy to go check.

The end.


Grandpa’s Astronomy Lesson

“Grandpa, look at the book I checked out from the library,” Jim said. He held up a book with a picture of the solar system on the front.

Grandpa took the book as he sat down on the couch next to Jim. “The planets?” He opened the book and flipped through the pages.

Jim leaned over and turned the pages to show a picture of the earth with a wedge removed. “See, the earth has layers, like a jawbreaker. Inside the center, there’s liquid and solid metal. Neat, huh?”

“Of course there is,” Grandpa said. “That’s what baby space phoenixes look like.”

“Huh?” Jim looked at the diagram again. “Space phoenixes?”

Neil, who had been adding a mustache to a picture of a panda in Carrie’s coloring book, dropped his pen and grinned. “Is this a grandpa story? We should get Lynn. She’ll want to hear it.” Read More