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But First, We Need to Talk About Parallel Universes · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
Show rules for this event
This Story is a Metaphor for the Canterbury Tales
"Any questions? No? Good. So first on our checklist is... going over the buttons." Xian pulled his long hair back from over his eyes in mild irritation as his free hand gestured loosely at the panel in front of him.. "Green hexagon's the start button. Red circle's the stop button. Everything else you don't touch, intern; leave those to us."

"Ah... right." Rosa stammered, frantically taking notes on a yellow pad as she looked over the vast array of screens and consoles. "Why the shape coding? And what's, uh, this supercomputer- er, which part of the lab is it?"

"It's a dimensional interval analyzer." Xian said as he turned to face the intern, leaning back against the panel. "We won't be using it until we calibrate coordinates, of course. Look. You're here to watch. Don't press anything unless you're told to, and the only two things you'll press are these buttons you can't screw up somehow. This entire operation is very delicate and - oh, right, don't bring any coffee into any of these rooms. Electronics and all, can't have you spilling anything."

"And a dimensional interval analyzer is used how, here?"

Xian sighed, flinging his hands into the air before grimacing and pulling his hair back again. "Of all the days to- Did you not take QPU Physics in undergrad? This measures the effective difference between parallel universes. This is a basic setup, you know."

Rosa scribbled furiously, a slight red tinge appearing on her cheeks. "Ah, uh. I took QPU my first year; my undergrad thesis was on theoretical chrono-dimensional anomalies, Mr. Sheng; my first PhD dissertation was on-"

"Doesn't matter." Xian replied curtly, hands resting lightly on the panel behind him. "We'll get you through this internship and back to your precious time twitches or whatever. Listen. We're busy trying to pull star matter from parallel universes. Theoretical science has no place here, and people who aren't serious about this really don't have any place here. Look, do you even know about parallel universes and the wave function calculations required to even reach another universe, let alone retrieve specific matter from one?" Xian scoffed, his hands palm out toward Rosa. "Let me explain how all this works in terms you'll surely understand. Take good notes, intern, because I'm not repeating a word of this later."

Rosa took a half step back as Xian's hand motions got more exaggerated, his voice shifting into a lecturer's cadence. "The machine in the next room is fed the dimensional coordinates of the target locations beforehand. It goes to the first set of coordinates and replaces whatever's in that location with whatever's in the second set of coordinates, practically jumping across QPUs. Once the transfer is complete, we press the red circle to stop the process. It's just dimensional physics."

His arms began to make sweeping motions, swinging over the buttons as he continued. "Never mind that we're changing the future here. Never mind that we could solve basically everything! We could fix world hunger, economic scarcity, everything could be fixed - but no, no, no, it's not important that kids study dimens*!*ional physics these days!" His hands swept wide as he smiled ecstatically at Rosa. "That's why this internship is a dream come-"

"That's great, but please don't hit the panel by mistake again." Rosa remarked dryly, noting something on her clipboard. "You just pressed the stop button, so no harm done, but we do need our interns to possess more situational awareness."

"Oh! Right, sorry." Xian scrambed away from the panel, looking back at the red hexagon and the other button on the panel. "I just got really excited seeing this for the first time... My bad."

Rosa followed his gaze for a moment. "The green circle is the start button; fortunately if you had hit that, either, it wouldn'tve worked, since we had the foresight to program, ah, failsafes in. Or I guess I did, while we were working out the temporal components to the coordinate code to stabilize and speed up interval calcuations. We'll review the other consoles as needed. And before you ask, since it made me curious my first day, the shape coding is because one of my supervisors is entirely colorblind." Glancing at her clipboard, she checked something off. "And reviewing the dimensional interval analyzer was the last part of the tour of the lab, it looks like. Any questions?"
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#1 · 1
I like how the twist was executed here. But there's just way too much technobabble to wade through, it wasn't a fun experience.
#2 ·
This might've been written in some sort of rush as several (mainly typographic) typos evidence.

Right. As Haze would say, it got a chuckle out of me, but nothing much more significant. The literal twist at the end is mildly funny, but it doesn't really redeem most of the fic, which comes across as a pile up of pseudo quantum mechanics jargon throw out in random order to give the story a veneer of science. There’s very little here apart from the verbiage and the ending, and we don’t really care because the characters are sorta cardboard cutouts: the dumb intern vs. the professor wonder.

So yeah, too wordy for my taste, I fear. Sorry, author.
#3 · 3
· · >>horizon
This is a pair of characters expositing a description of a dimensional travel console. Its main virtue is that it fits the prompt, but by itself it's not much of a story, and as a scene there's not a lot to it under the technobabble. It is of course acceptable to submit parts of larger stories to minific rounds, but they should be able to mostly stand by themselves.
#4 · 1
· · >>AndrewRogue
First of all, I don't understand how this story is a metaphor for the Canterbury Tales. It's possible I'm overthinking it; after all, this is a tale told while its participants take a pilgrimage. But that feels excessively reductionist and none of the themes line up in any satisfying way.

I like some of the details here — the belated explanation on the shapes, for example, neatly clicked into place with a cool detail that offered up some subtle characterization. The moment of transition in the middle I thought was handled well, and there's a satisfying sense of justice to the ending.

I can't work up a whole lot of emotional engagement for the rest, though and I'm not sure how much of that is a writing problem vs. a taste problem. Xian felt really excessive in his scenery-chewing petty villainy (taste?), and the exposition felt fairly forced to me (writing?). Honestly though my biggest gripe is that I have some major questions about the machine setup. This must be an alternate universe indeed if they're giving start and stop powers to the intern — but even an alternate universe feels insufficient to explain why this experimental machine with programmable coordinates that they're using to literally pull matter out of stars would ever be pointed at the operator console. I would buy that as some sort of sabotage, but your premise doesn't allow interns access to the targeting …

I disagree with >>GroaningGreyAgony that this feels like a fragment of a larger story — it sets up a conflict, resolution, and denouement, and I believe is self-contained as is. I do agree with previous commenters that the technobabble seems thick, but I think that's more of a symptom than a cause — if there were interesting things going on amid the technobabble, all the jargon wouldn't feel so weighty. We (and Rosa) are literally getting lectured to, though, which forces the t'babble front and center.

All in all, this might benefit from some significant changes about how to bring its core idea out. It's not that it's a bad story — but the editing process might involve some cuts or rewrites deeper than usual, hence the tier. Regardless, thanks for sharing!

Tier: Needs Work
#5 · 1
Another entry where the previous comments covered most of what I have to say! Also another entry in the category of fics that exposition about and display one intellectually stimulating idea, but don't really tell a story about it. I'm particularly confused about how a stellar matter scooper inverts the characters' roles, and unlike horizon, I'm afraid I don't see much of an arc, conflict or climax going on.

There are definitely some jokes going on, though, and some of them may be going over readers' heads. The term QPU comes from the video that inspired the prompt (linked on page 1 of the discussion thread). The names Xian and Rosa may be references; in particular, Xian is the nickname of a well known fighting game player, and EVO, the world's biggest fighting game tournament, is this coming weekend. Maybe more I'm not seeing? Maybe I'm just wrong? I dunno.

In any case, as horizon said, this story isn't that bad, but it's in need of a stronger focus and arc and needs a fair amount of big picture editing work to get it there. Thank you for writing, though!
#6 ·
>>horizon nails it for me. Nothing to add, there.
#7 ·
Speaking as someone who's never read The Canterbury Tales, I thought this story was pretty middle-of-the-road. The twist is executed fine, but with all the technobabble, it made it a bit of a chore to read. Given the story's trying to be comedic, it kind of shoots itself in the foot when you make the reading experience more irritating than amusing.

4/10, don't push the "reply" button if you like this universe
#8 · 3
· · >>Dubs_Rewatcher
Thanks for the comments, all! Will definitely keep feedback in mind with further works. A few notes:

The piece was basically just a character piece between Xian and Rosa, specifically Rosa; It was intentionally a character piece rather than a story piece thing because I wanted to play with the two different versions rather than pose one over the other, though
second!Rosa got the better end of the stick it seems, and Xian's assholery was both built from people I've known and meant to play off the overly eager, way too invested individual as sort of an... analysis of how people can get that way even if they didn't start there?

Xian is multiple jokes/references all in one: Xian Sheng -> Xiansheng, which is MIster. He's Mr. Mister, which is meant to be a play off of Mario Mario. http://nintendoeverything.com/miyamoto-says-marios-full-name-is-mario-mario/ If in the traditional form of family name then first name, he's Shengxian, which is one term for a sage or wise man (which he deliberately isn't).

Rosa is named for Rosalina of the Mario series. They're pulling matter out of stars because Mario is supposed to collect stars, and QPUs are referencing the video the prompt comes from. It was all basically an long form bad joke on that element of the games; after all, wouldn't Mario like to have something grab the stars for him?

That's about all the minor jokes/hidden stuff I didn't see people comment on. Again, thanks for feedback, all.
#9 ·
But what does the title mean?
#10 · 1
Oh, right. That was sort of an off-hand reference to one case in the Tales where Chaucer interrupted halfway through one of their tales and so he switched to a totally different story. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Thopas

(And "dimensional interval analyzer" is also a reference to the meme source, specifically the need to determine how far you need to/can go into the QPU stuff with any given motion.)