New Earth

“That’s impossible,” Quinn glared at the guard that interrupted his paperwork. The young man trembled at the door to Quinn’s office and nodded.

“Yes, sir. But it happened; that’s why they need you.” The aged, greying doctor narrowed his eyes at the guard. 

“If you’ve been roped into playing a trick on me…,” Quinn sighed and stood from his desk. “…I hope you choose better friends at your next job.” The guard shook his head and led the way to the lab. Dr. Quinn knew the way of course, but the new guard followed his task to the letter.

After a quiet walk with several turns, they entered the university’s A.I. lab. A flock of white labcoats surrounded Dr. Quinn while squawking off questions. The lean, grumpy man held a hand up, and the crowd began to quiet.

“One at a time,” he said. He pointed at a student he recognized as being the most senior of the group. 

“It’s amazing! This way, sir!”  He encouraged Dr. Quinn to follow him to a wide, chest-high table. The table was covered by a glass case. A half-foot mound of black powder rested in the center of the table, under the glass.

“Yes,” Quinn said. “Amazing that you used a year’s allotment of nanos in just a day,” he grumbled while giving the student a stern look. The student shook his head, and even cracked a smile.

“We were trying to connect them to the Solar System Network,” the student’s eyes sparkled. “And we found something else.”

“I was told you discovered an alien life form,” Dr. Quinn turned to glare at the security guard. “Please stop wasting my time with dramatic tension and either show me proof or play your prank.” 

“Connect it,” the student sighed and glanced at his coworkers. 

“Connecting in 3…,” one of them began a count down. “2…,” Despite himself, Dr. Quinn leaned closer to the table and watched with interest. “1. Connected.” 

As soon as the connection was established, the mound of black powder moved. It ejected a small plume upward; when the black cloud cleared, it revealed a small black mannequin. The two-foot-tall toy hovered between the tabletop and the glass case.

“Welcome to the AlterNet!” a small, feminine voice came from the mannequin.

“What’s the AlterNet?” Dr. Quinn asked the student; his only reply was a broad smile. 

“The AlterNet is a network of Alternate Earths connected through nano-technology. Your Earth has been added to the AlterNet.”

“Wait, wait. What does that mean exactly? Does that benefit us in any way?” 

“Confirmed. There are many organizations that offer new Earths assistance in acclimating to the multiverse.” 

“Wait a minute…,” Dr. Quinn’s knees weakened under him, the aged doctor pulled a chair closer to the table and sat down. His eyes remained on the mannequin through the glass, and a smile grew at the edges of his wrinkled mouth. “It’s real, isn’t it?” he asked aloud. It was mostly a rhetorical question, but the mannequin answered.

“Confirmed. The multiverse exists.” Dr. Quinn’s smile grew wider.

“There are other Earths!” he exclaimed and turned to look at the students. “Do you know what this means!? Maybe not on our Earth, but somewhere out there, one of them has to have met aliens!”

“Incorrect assumption,” the mannequin said. “Alien life has not been confirmed on any AlterNet Earth.”

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