A science fiction story published in F&SF June 2002. A quantum war and two lovers with vastly different ways of dealing with ethical questions. (I swear this is the last time for the forseeable future that I write sf with a final exam in it. My stories back then must have screamed, “Student!”) Dedicated to JCB. Reprinted in SF: The Best of 2002, ed. Robert Silverberg & Karen Haber.
The Black Abacus
In space there are no seasons, and this is true too of the silver wheels that are humanity’s homes beyond Earth and the silver ships that carried us there. In autumn there are no fallen leaves and in spring, no living flowers; no winter winds, no summer snow. There are no days except our own calendars and the stars’ slow candles in the dark.
The Network has known only one war, and that war ended before it began.
This is why, of course, the Network’s ships trapped in q-space–that otherwhere of superpositions and spindrift possibilities–wield waveform interrupters, and why, though I was Rachel’s friend, I killed her across several timelines. But the tale begins with our final exam, not my murders.