Roma Writer's Group

The Works of Lee Goleby

PASTEK

Vicki stared at the inbox. Perhaps by force of will alone, she could make the email open and reveal its contents. She had checked the others first, and lingered over each one, as if in so doing, this one might just disappear. Now was the time for decision-making. Would she look at it or not? Decidedly, it was a hoax, but would it be a nasty one? Vicki had learnt to be wary of opening unsolicited emails.

The sender's name gazed mutely back at her: Alin Vicki Robertson Szekeres. The first and last names she had never seen before, but the middle two names were her own. Coincidence?

She made her decision, hit the DELETE key, and proceeded to close down the machine. It was time for work, not to procrastinate over someone's joke email.

Five minutes later Vicki was back checking the Deleted Items list, and opening the email with a practised click. The first thing that struck her was the date: 3 Aug 2161. How had that happened? Then she noticed the weird email address: avrs@pastek.au.oce.ea.sol

"Idiot", she scolded herself, and scanned down the page, murmuring in disbelief. There was little that could be said of the sender's comical wit, although a vivid imagination was beyond doubt:

to vicki robertson

i am 23 years old, and a student in earth history at oceana tek university. jorn tran, a distant cousin, and i have undertaken a joint project on tek history in the early 21st century. as part of our study, and because of our family's long involvement in time-rel research, we have been allowed the privilege of eeming selected ancestors using the new pastek process.

we have written to you, because we believe i was named after you. several of your email documents have survived, and been collected in the e-arkives. we are reasonably certain you are our 4xgreat grandmother, vicki louise robertson, born 6 january 1981 in brisbane, australia.

first we chose one of your extant emails, then attempted to locate its exact time of delivery within the spacetime continuum. this in itself took many months, because the kaon 'clock', with which events can be very accurately located, was not developed until after your lifetime. after establishing the vectors, this eem could then be 'piggy-backed' onto the known email, and delivered at the same spacetime. your particular "now" seemed most appropriate out of the several options available, because e-communication was still relatively light, and because my research indicates that you would have already met your future husband, my 4xgreat grandfather.
unfortunately we cannot be more specific about your future, as there are still rather stringent restrictions on the type of information that may be pasteemed. there are, however, no restrictions on what you may send to us.

we would be pleased to receive anything you can tell of your life, family, and the times in which you live.

respectfully yours
alin vicki robertson szekeres and jorn dayne szekeres tran

Following this introduction, the email contained a long attachment of questions and requests. Vicki became absorbed in reading before she suddenly realised the time.

Vicki missed her usual bus, and had to wait for the next. By the time she walked into the office, a dull pain was pressing behind her eyes. She noticed a small group of people congregated near the manager's desk. Other than waving an airy greeting in their direction, she disregarded the observation, and settled down at her terminal to check the day's schedule.

Presently, she became aware that two people had separated from the group, and were making their way to her desk. Judy and a young man smiled at Vicki as they walked over. 'Of course. He must be the visiting systems engineer', Vicki surmised, and rose to meet them.

"Vicki Robertson - Dayne Szekeres", Judy announced, and the pain behind Vicki's eyes erupted into a full-blown shock wave as she suddenly focused on this stranger before her.

"Y-you sent it?" she stuttered. It was not until her mind registered the sudden silence of the office, that she realised that Dayne had uttered the same words, in the same tone, at exactly the same time. They stared at each other in bewilderment, each noticing the other's confusion.

"You didn't send it? You got one, too?" Dayne queried. He could see the answer given by her uncomprehending stare without her having to say another word. Who could have known they would meet? They turned as one to look at the others in the room, but the surprise was just as evident in each person nearby.

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Alin stared at the hol, as if by force of will alone, she could make the eem appear. Jorn hovered nearby, trying to keep himself occupied with the eeb in his hands, but his restless eyes betrayed his anxiety. Alin glanced curiously at her cousin. She had rarely seen him like this. Usually he was the calm, collected one. She had often wanted to pierce that reserve, and talk to him about his own life. What did he think about, when he was not so completely focused on the project at hand?

As she has many times, she looked at Jorn's face, searching for any family resemblance, but finding none. It had been chance that they were studying at the same university, but it had worked to both their advantages. The heaviest part of the work was now behind them. As soon as this part of the project was over, Jorn would be on his way home, and the only communication between them would be via eem.

Alin shrugged slightly, and turned back to the hol. "It hasn't been an hour yet, and we knew that even our most advanced tek would take this long to access the portal. It must work, and it will be worth all our efforts. The particular spacetime that we targeted, was right in the middle of the computer boom, including the Gates controversy."

Jorn spoke, forming his words carefully as usual. What he said surprised her. "We've worked well together. Our common ancestry has meant that the load could be shared, and we've
been able to progress rapidly. Whether it works or not, I appreciate your partnership. I don't think I could have come this far alone."

As if in response to his words, the hol shimmered, and something began to take shape in front of them. It was not the expected flat monochrome of most early 21st century script. Alin had felt she would recognise the answering eem as soon as it appeared, but instead something else was happening, something that made her gasp with delight.

The holimage of a woman and man appeared. It did not have the clarity of today's hols, but rather the smoky look of the earliest images. Although it was merely a recording, the couple sat looking out, as if searching to see the recipients. It was difficult to determine their ages, but their clothing was that of mid 21st century on earth. After a few seconds the woman took a deep breath, and began to speak.

Hello Alin and Jorn. I am Vicki Louise Robertson. I don't know if this will reach you, or whether this is real, but I have seen enough in the last fifty years to know that many
things are possible - even this. I want to thank you for what you have given to us, even though we will never meet you face-to-face. Dayne and I (She turned to face the man, and took
his hand in hers) always remember that it was your communication that so ignited our first meeting. We came across my original print-out again recently on the occasion of
our fiftieth wedding anniversary. It was tucked inside my 2001 diary along with a host of sweet memories.

The man then began to speak in a relaxed tone of voice.
After the first few days we stopped asking where the emails had come from, and began simply to give thanks for their existence. Even now, we still refer to that date as "Email Day", and never fail to celebrate it.

It has been our privilege to see our children and grandchildren grow into fine people, and you would be proud to know them. Although we will never meet you, we feel close to you as well. Attached to this transmission you will find photos, videos, documents, and many other items we hope you will find of use in your research.

The cousins grinned at each other with relief and satisfaction. It had worked!

Then Dayne's voice spoke again, and the jubilation turned to jelly-kneed wonder, as they took in the full impact of his final words: We have another message for both of you, and we have been told we must pass it on. Apparently this will become part of family legend. Today we received another pasteem, dated 2250. It comes from Sanda Alin Tran - your great granddaughter! She says that the two of you need a good holiday together after all your hard work.
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