This is a more complicated story, so let me give you some context so the excerpt will make sense. The Tenth Dimension takes place two hundred years after The Earthside Trilogy. Since that time, Earth governments have moved to a technocratic society, and the cybernetic implants and terraforming technology have enabled humans (and cybernetics) to create colonies in the inner solar system: some through space stations, and many through terraforming the moons of the inner solar system. In an effort to restore Earth to an optimal state, the governments have limited Earth population to two billion. Cybertec, an evolution of the cybernetic nanotech brought to Earth, is also commonly implanted not only in humans, but in plants and animals as well in the effort to make Earth a utopia.
Of course, not everybody is happy with this. The energy aliens left Earth after Kalea Kerner, the last of their human hosts, passed away thirty years prior. Their departure spawned a small but vocal movement of humans opposed to cybertec. At the head of this movement is Willow Lanier, a thirty year old biological engineer who designs a virus that she inserts in the satellite system linking the cybertec. The purpose of the virus is to temporarily sever the link, demonstrating to the cybernetic aliens that humanity can break their binding, and encouraging other humans to develop genetic therapies that will solve the problems using pure human DNA, instead of alien technology. The link is severed, but it takes three million causalities. Willow and nine others in worldwide cells are convicted and sentenced to banishment to Kupiter Station II, a science station in the Kupiter Belt doing research on the very gene therapies that Willow proposed, with a twist: instead of using human DNA, they subject the prisoners to a DNA scissoring procedure using cybernetic DNA while in cryogenic stasis on their journey to the station. Willow and her compatriots wake up in the Kupiter Belt with alien DNA in their head, with a mission to further develop this DNA scissoring method for use in other humans refusing cybertec, using themselves as experimental subjects. Willow’s boyfriend and the mastermind of the plot, Neith, is separated from the group and sentenced to cybertec injection and banishment to an undisclosed penal colony under cybernetic supervision, since he’s been identified as too dangerous to be in contact with humanity.
Willow wakes at Kupiter Station II after a baffling vision on her journey to the outer solar system scared, depressed, and confused. She didn’t mean for her virus to hurt people, and doubts there’s any hope for her future. Then the visions start: strange visions of a different life where she made different choices. When her roommate, Addie, and another prisoner, Dathan, report similar visions, she digs in through her work to discover that their space station was built just outside of a spatial anomaly. What’s more, the cybernetic aliens knew about this anomaly when they entered the system two centuries prior, but they didn’t research or report it’s existence. When Addie is able to smuggle in her previous research from her criminal days, they discover that the anomaly is growing toward the human settlements, specifically a new one under construction on Titania (one of the moons of Uranus), where the Willow’s parents have applied to work to be closer to her.
Are you still with me? Good, then we’ll get into the actual book. This chapter is a scene where Willow meets with Dathan after they both experience an intense vision that puts them in the infirmary. What’s more shocking is that they both saw the same thing, even though it’s a reality that’s impossible for both of them. And without further ado, here’s an excerpt from The Tenth Dimension.
“Did you ever consider leaving Earth before your sentence?” Dathan asked.
Willow looked around the empty science bay in the low after-hours light at 2300 hours the next evening. Addie learned that the work areas weren’t monitored after the standard hours ended at 2200, and suggested that they meet Dathan in her work area. Fortunately, their quarters were near the unmonitored work areas, so Addie had no problem hacking into the security cameras and installing a false video loop to hide their movements. The problem was that they only had thirty minutes before the next standard station patrol through the area, so they had to talk fast.
“I had several offers to work on the Jovan settlements. In fact, my parents accepted one of them, and my brother accepted a post on Earth’s lunar base. But in the end, I couldn’t bring myself to leave Earth.”
“You mean, you couldn’t bring yourself to leave Neith,” Dathan said, “because he’d never leave Earth.”
Willow tipped her head. “How do you know that?”
Dathan tapped his head. “Because I was in a world where you did leave him day before yesterday. So either you did consider it, or I saw a universe where you weren’t with Neith.” He paused. “I’m trying to figure out which dimension I was in.”
“So you buy into this theory that the spatial anomaly is a tear between alternate realities?” Willow asked.
Dathan raised an eyebrow. “You don’t?”
Willow looked away. “I’m not sure what I believe.”
“I find that interesting, because I saw you in that dimension,” Dathan said.
“You threw a diamond into the rings of Uranus.” Dathan said. “It was a diamond that Neith gave you.”
Willow paled. “How did you know that?”
“I saw you. You didn’t see me. I was inside the building working, and saw a glint of light from the window. When I looked out, you were throwing a diamond into the sky.” He paused. “I don’t know how I knew that Neith gave it to you.”
Willow crossed her arms. “What do you do, again?”
He mimicked her arm cross. “I’m a geneticist.”
“And how did you come to be here?”
“Neith recruited me to follow up on your discoveries of the DNA alterations caused by the cybertec.” He uncrossed his arms and leaned forward. “Do you believe me now?”
Willow relaxed and leaned back. “I’m sorry. This is crazy. How do you know that you were seeing another universe?”
Dathan pulled Addie’s ereader from the large pocket in his jacket. “I read Addie’s research, and it’s fascinating. This definitely should have gone public, but string theory is and always has been over the average person’s head.” He paused. “Then again, the cybernetics understand it perfectly. And that’s the problem.”
“Another one of those things they don’t want us to know,” Willow grumbled.
“They believe it’s dangerous,” Dathan said. “That’s why Addie was forced underground with this. They basically had the government ban all research into it fifty years ago, because they were finding out too much.”
“What convinced you that what we’re seeing is other dimensions, and not this dissociative amnesia that the doctors keep telling us that we have?”
Dathan picked up Addie’s ereader and tapped open the note app. “Here’s the thing. They’re both right.”
Willow raised an eyebrow. “I beg your pardon?”
Dathan drew a circle in the center of the screen. “Let’s say this circle is you. You know string theory, and how it proposes that all of our decisions branch out in alternate realities, based on the decisions we make in each universe.”
“I know the basic concept.”
He drew a line from the center of the circle. “Let’s say you’re presented with a decision to accept a position off Earth. The center line is the one you choose in this universe, so to speak. It’s the reality you know. Let’s say you decide to stay on Earth in the first dimension.” He drew another line above it. “This line is one where you choose to accept the offer. It’s a ‘you’ in a second dimension that makes the opposite choice.” He drew a third line below it. “And this line is a third dimension where the offer isn’t made at all. You never have to make the decision, so that reality continues to move forward. That’s another dimension.”
Willow nodded, studying the graphic. “And it could go on from there.” She touched the screen, drawing another line. “This could be another dimension where a different offer is made, and then I branch out on whether I accept or decline the offer.”
Dathan nodded. “You do understand. At it’s core, most people do. It’s the deeper physics that blow minds, but in our technocratic society people understand the details even better than they did in centuries past.”
“We’re more aware, and that’s created a host of potential universes,” Willow said.
“It did for a while. The nature of the universe is expansion. Since the Big Bang, the universe and all of existence keeps expanding outward. This is physics in motion, so that’s as it should be. The dimensions should keep branching out into infinity, without limit,” he wiped his hand over the screen, erasing all but the first three lines. “But the problem is that it seems the dimensions are actually collapsing.”
“How?” Willow asked. “If nature is expansion, then how is that possible?”
Dathan drew lines above and below the circle, wide on the left but converging as they moved right. “We know there are at least ten dimensions in existence, perhaps more. We also know that length, height, and depth are uniform across them. They don’t vary.” He pointed to the lines. “Until recently, time was also a constant across them. Things moved parallel, but Addie’s research shows that something’s happened to cause the time dimension to become unstable.”
“I read something in her research that said physicists believed the increased use of dark matter by the energy and cybernetics might have caused some fluctuations in energy flow,” Willow said. “Do you think that’s what caused time to become unstable?”
Dathan shrugged. “That’s the thing. We aren’t sure. The only proof we have is that the spatial anomaly seems to have formed out here around the time that the energy aliens and cybernetics came to Earth in 2098, and it’s been growing since then. The recent acceleration of that growth with our expansion in the solar system is what lent to this theory.”
Willow thought. “That station on Titania isn’t built yet. They just opened applications to work on that station, but you and I saw a reality where we work there now.”
Dathan shook his head. “Not now. That timeline is at least five years ahead of where we are now, and is obviously one where we weren’t sent here.” He paused. “It still begs the question of why we’re actively seeing these universes now.”
“It’s only happening in three who have had the DNA therapy,” Willow said. “Addie, you, and I are the only ones having these visions since we came out of cryo when we arrived. And honestly, I can’t say that I feel any different.”
“We haven’t struggled to adapt out here,” Dathan said. “Have you noticed that? People who go into space usually have space sickness from the differences in light exposure and gravity, but nobody’s expressed problems there.”
“That’s true,” Willow said. “We also don’t get sick and seem to function better physically. We’re stronger and more alert. Obviously, the genetic manipulation is working to make us function more effectively. But only three of us are jumping universes. That’s interesting.” She paused. “What about what happened to you when you saw Titania the other day? Do you remember that? You were obviously confused. I know I was when I saw it, and you were much more immersed in that dimension than I was.”
Dathan looked down. “I do remember everything, and I’m sorry anybody saw me like that. Obviously, we aren’t meant to exist in the same form in multiple dimensions, and yet I did. I wonder why. You came out of it alright.”
Willow shook her head. “I don’t know about that. I’m still shaken up over it, and my concentration has been shot since then.”
“Me too,” Dathan said. “What about your research? It showed you that the spatial anomaly is a factor in our visions. Did the cybernetics ever get in contact with you on what they know about it?”
“No, they either didn’t get the message, or ignored it,” Willow said. “This is a curious. I’d think they would want to know more and would want our help on it. It’s obvious that ignoring the problem didn’t make it go away. If anything, it’s spreading. I had a dream just before my black out session where I was back on Earth with Neith and Cayden, my brother. Things were bad there.”
“Maybe you, Addie, and I should track our visions.”
“Maybe I can get that done through my work. I’ll talk to Sebastian about it in the morning. He’s more open to my ideas since Addie and I identified this anomaly.” She stared at Dathan. “Why would the cybernetics hide this? They knew. We saw that in the records they shared with us, but didn’t follow up on it.”
Dathan snapped the case on Addie’s ereader closed and handed it to Willow. “I think they did study it, and were scared of what they found.”
Willow took Addie’s ereader. “They’ve mastered just about every challenge that faces life in this universe. What could possibly scare them?”
Dathan stared out of the window in the lab at the stars sparkling around the station. “I don’t know.”