Time In Advance

by William Tenn
Reviewed date: 2016 Dec 24
153 pages
cover art

Algernon Hebster has a problem. He has made a fortune from selling Alien technology, but now the anti-Alien Humanity First movement is out to make an example of him. A Firster has infiltrated his staff and murdered a Primey (a human who has "changed" after getting too close to the Aliens) in Hebster's office building. Apparently this will somehow implicate Hebster, although I was never clear as to how, exactly. Surely it would reflect more on the Humanity First movement?

In any case, Hebster is stuck. Anti-alien sentiment is running high, and the Firsters are likely to stage a revolution at any moment. Hebster seeks out the Aliens, hoping to parley with them without going Prime himself. He succeeds. It turns out, as a natural-born businessman, he is the only one who can communicate with the Aliens on their level. All previous contacts have been from scientists, philosophers, etc--and they've all gone mad--that is, gone Prime. Hebster, being interested in nothing but trade and profit, managed to find an Alien counterpart who had similar thoughts, and they are able to strike a bargain without Hebster being turned Prime.

Time In Advance
Nicholas Crandall has just returned from serving a term of hard labor on the Convict Planets: seven years, for murder, time served in advance. As a newly minted pre-criminal, Crandall is entitled to commit one premeditated murder. While Crandall prepares to hunt down and murder a colleague who stole a business idea, he gets a series of phone calls. His ex-wife calls and asks him not to murder her, because she's really very sorry for cheating on him, and anyway, it was only with the one guy--all those others didn't even count. His business partner calls and asks Crandall to please not kill him, he's sorry for embezzling all the money, and he'll return it and give Crandall his shares of the company back. And his brother calls, asking Crandall to please not kill him, even though he cheated on him with his wife.

Crandall decides that he's been wronged so much by so many people, that the problem must be himself: he's a chump. He decides not to murder anybody after all.

The Sickness
A mission to Mars uncovers an intact, underground Martian city, left behind after the Martians went extinct. But the city is not benign: it unleases a virus that rips through the crew, until only O'Brien is left. Then the others come out of their comas--the virus has increased their mental capacity a thousand-fold. They now have powers undreamed of, which they can share with humanity. It is the beginning of a glorious new future for mankind--except for O'Brien, because he's immune to the virus.

Winthrop Was Stubborn
Five tourists to the 25th century are stuck there when one of their number, Winthrop, decides not to return to the 20th century. The laws of the 25th century do not permit anybody to force him to return, and the laws of temporal physics do not permit anybody to return unless the entire group is present. Winthrop is too intent on enjoying all the luxuries the 25th century has to offer, and will never willingly return, so it seems all is lost. Solution: Winthrop quickly enjoys himself to death, and his body is all that is needed for the return trip.

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