From Harry Turtledove, bestselling author and critically acclaimed master of the short story, comes a classic collection of science fiction tales and what-if scenarios. In narratives ranging from fantastic to oddly familiar to eerily prescient, this compelling volume illustrates Turtledove's literary skill and unbridled imagination.FORTY, COUNTING DOWN: With the help of his time travel software, computer genius Justin Kloster returns to the past to stop himself from making a terrible mistake-but all actions have their consequences.THE MALTESE ELEPHANT: A legendary detective finds himself in grave danger when a noir masterpiece takes a stunning new twist.GODDESS FOR A DAY: Taking a page from history, a young girl dares to challenge the gods-and is richly rewarded for her efforts.DECONSTRUCTION GANG: Mired in unemployment and despair, an academic finds happiness and intellectual fulfillment in a most unexpected place.
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December 31, 2001
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Excerpt from Counting Up, Counting Down by Harry Turtledove
Forty, Counting Down
This story is a mirror-image twin of ' Twenty-one, Counting Up, ' the last piece in this book. If you read one, you ' ll see one thing. If you read the other, you ' ll see something else. If you read them both, I hope they prove more than the sum of their parts. I don ' t recommend that you read them back to back ' I think they should have a little time between them. But if you choose not to listen to me, who ' s going to know ' Hey, Justin! ' Sean Peters ' voice floated over the top of the Superstrings, Ltd., cubicle wall. ' It ' s twenty after six ' quitting time and then some. Want a drink or two with me and Garth '
' Hang on, ' Justin Kloster answered. ' Let me save what I ' m working on first. ' He told his computer to save his work as it stood, generate a backup, and shut itself off. Having grown up in the days when voice-recognition software was imperfectly reliable, he waited to make sure the machine followed orders. It did, of course. Making that software idiotproof had put Superstrings on the map a few years after the turn of the century.
Justin got up, stretched, and looked around. Not much to see: the grayish-tan fuzzy walls of the cubicle and an astringently neat desktop that held the computer, a wedding photo of Megan and him, and a phone/fax. His lips narrowed. The marriage had lasted four years ' four and a half, actually. He hadn ' t come close to finding anybody else since.
Footsteps announced Peters ' arrival. He looked like a high-school linebacker who ' d let most of his muscle go to flab since. Garth O ' Connell was right behind him. He was from the same mold, except getting thin on top instead of going gray. ' How ' s the Iron Curtain sound ' Peters asked.
' Sure, ' Justin said. ' It ' s close, and you can hear yourself think ' most of the time, anyhow. '
They went out into the parking lot together, bitching when they stepped from air conditioning to San Fernando Valley August heat. Justin ' s eyes started watering, too; L.A. smog wasn ' t so bad as it had been when he was young, but it hadn ' t disappeared.