“Forced Perspective” • by Kimberly Ann Smiley

Max was nearly at the door when the Captain strode through. She froze, her eyes on the dull cube Max held.

“That thing is supposed to be in quarantine. What the hell is going on, Max.”

“It’s the only way. Sorry.”

The Captain hit the panic button on the door frame with one hand while drawing her blaster with the other. “I can’t let you leave with unidentified alien tech.”

Max heard people running towards them. It sounded like the entire team had responded to the alarm. The Captain’s gaze flicked towards the newcomers, and Max bolted towards the exit.

She fired as soon as he moved. He honestly hadn’t thought she would actually shoot him. They’d worked together for years, but apparently he didn’t know her as well as he believed.

The blast somehow missed Max but hit the artifact dead center. Time seemed to stumble as the alien cube glowed before releasing a pulse of rainbow waves.

Abruptly, Max saw the room from too many perspectives for his brain to process.

Memories surged into his mind. Some he recognized. Others were foreign. A toddler sized cough. Nine different first kisses. Panic. Funerals. Love. More terrible coughing. Desperation. Hope.

A tsunami of experiences roared through him. Eventually, Max understood. These were his team’s lives. And it was so much more than passively watching memories.

At this moment, all nine were one. Nine lives worth of emotions fused together. He was nine people. They were him.

Reality snapped back with a disorienting twang.

“Why didn’t you tell us about your daughter?” asked the Captain, her blaster lowered. “We’ll help you raise the money. Without stealing anything.”

Max turned and looked at the rest of the team. Everyone nodded. There was no need for more words. They understood each other perfectly.


Kimberly Ann Smiley was born and raised in California, but now lives in Mississippi after an unexpected plot twist. She has several pieces of paper that claim she is a mechanical engineer and none that mention writing but has decided not to let the practical decisions made in her youth define the rest of her life. Her work has appeared both here and in Daily Science Fiction. She is becoming a regular contributor for us: if you want to read more of her stories, click here.

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