"Your father and I…"
And with four words, the odds of my mother having good news arced sharply towards zero. If there was such a thing as a Haiku of Unmaking, capable of laying waste to the world, I had no doubt those were the first five syllables.
For several seconds my earpiece was silent. My pained apprehension must have showed because a woman passing me, face barely visible beneath her hood, looked at me with concern. She walked past, and I was about to look back at her when my mother continued: "…have decided not to go on the cruise. We're coming up to visit you this spring instead."
A chill night wind accompanied the words.
"Mother, can we talk about this tomorrow? I really need to get--"
"Yes, Keith, I know you're busy. I remember when I didn't have to make an appointment to talk to my only son."
"All right. I should go. Your father's standing in the backyard without a jacket, looking up at the sky. I tell you, he's losing his mind. Goodbye, dear."
I tapped off the earpiece and looked around me. I was standing at an intersection I did not recognize. This always happened when mother called: I would be walking or driving somewhere, get distracted and wander off my course. I pulled out my handheld and tried to get a GPS fix. "No Signal Available" flashed on the screen. I was restarting the application when a voice saying "Excuse me" made me jump.
It was the woman who had passed me. She pulled back her hood, revealing a pretty, if wind-reddened, face.
"Yes?" I asked, realizing as I said it that it came out too brusque. That concerned look was still there. Leave it to me to meet a gesture of kindness with a curt response.
"Would you have any idea what that is?" she said, looking and pointing upward.
The waxing moon hung high in the clear sky. Sharply visible against it was a large, four-sided shadow.

It was night the first ship arrived. The night I met Sadie.

I never made it to wherever I was going. Sadie and I sat in a diner, drank coffee, and watched the antique television with the other patrons as the news unfolded. Many networks were unavailable, as something was interfering with satellites, but one channel showed the various statements made by politicians, military experts, and scientists. The facts known for certain were these: earlier in the evening an object had situated itself at the Lagrange point known as L1, where Earth's gravity and the moon's cancelled each other out. The fact that this point is a lot closer to the moon than to Earth, coupled with how much of the moon was eclipsed, meant that the object was colossal.
"Wow. This is it," said Sadie.
"Yeah," I replied, knowing exactly what she meant.
After a few cycles of the same facts being repeated by news anchors, Sadie and I talked. She was a freelance food blogger, mostly restaurant reviews and opinion columns. I told her about the riveting life of a mid-level information technology manager. We were both divorced with no kids. Both mildly disillusioned with life. Both acutely aware that we were getting older.
Out of nowhere she asked, "Why are there numbers sewn along your scarf?"
I held up one end. "They're the first fifteen digits of pi."
"Of course they are," she said with a smile.
A NASA spokesperson came on the TV, showing new high-resolution images of the object taken from orbiting telescopes.
"A pyramid," Sadie said.
"It's not a pyramid," I said, sounding more annoyed than I wanted to. "It's a tetrahedron. Four triangular faces. A pyramid is four triangles atop a square base."
"You are such a smooth talker."
I downed the last of my coffee and said, "If the world is getting invaded tonight, I am going to watch it on my superior TV and drink something measurably more potent than coffee. You are welcome to join me."
"You know, for a middle-aged math-obsessed geek with horrible taste in scarves, you're actually rather charming."
"How nice of you to say," I said unflinchingly. "And you're very pretty, only about twenty percent askew of the Golden Ratio which dictates most Western concepts of beauty."

For the rest of the evening, scientists attempted to communicate with the object by sending a series of prime numbers via radio wave, followed by greetings in a number of algorithmic and multi-modal languages. All the world's radio telescopes spun around to focus on the craft, listening intently.
The aliens responded by asking (in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Swahili, and 15 other languages), "Can we have your junk?"
After much discussion among the scientists, as well as politicians and philosophers, the response was sent: "Sure."
Sadie and I spent that weekend together, and followed events as the ship retrieved all the detritus circling the Earth. I explained that at last estimate there were over a million pieces of space junk: spent fuel tanks, abandoned modules, bits of metal and wire. These aliens scooped it all up, while leaving working satellites and spacecraft untouched. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station said it was an impressive operation involving hundreds of magnetic tentacles emerging from the sides of the ship, snagging the pieces, and reeling them back.
When the operation was over, the Tetrahedron transmitted one word: "Thanks." And then it was gone.
For the next couple weeks, the world debated and argued over the significance of our first contact with extraterrestrial life. Doomsayers warned of imminent destruction. Conspiracy theorists claimed the whole thing was faked. There was speculation as to what the aliens looked like, why they hadn't shown themselves, or if there were in fact any aliens aboard the ship at all.
Sadie duly pointed out each time the ship was described as a pyramid.

"They are making a movie about the ship," Sadie told me as we walked out of Walgreen's.
She hadn't wanted to go out on Valentine's Day, as she found it too contrived. So I spent the following afternoon listening to my mother harangue me for not knowing how to treat a lady, then accompanying Sadie as she bought up a large number of discounted boxes of candy.
"Not much to make a movie about," I said, looking for the car.
"They are taking a few liberties. The facts are being embellished to include a large space battle, a love story, and a comedic subplot. I hear there's a teaser available online, no doubt featuring a horrible cover of a popular Seventies tune."
I was about to say something when the thing appeared in front of me. It was nine feet tall, semi-transparent, vaguely insectoid and holding what appeared to be a clipboard.
I looked around. There were dozens of them across the parking lot and visible down the street, all identical. In a few cases they stood near people walking while talking into handhelds, or otherwise not looking where they were going. Instead of colliding, the people simply passed through them.
The one in front of us looked our way. I looked at Sadie.
"I am not giving it my candy," she said.
It appeared to make some notes on the clipboard. I glanced around at the others. They were all doing the same thing. Their spacing caught my attention: they were at equidistant intervals from each other, about thirty feet apart. I stepped sideways to get a better view, trying to establish the pattern, when they all disappeared.
A study of the eyewitness accounts and copious camera footage that appeared online showed that an estimated eight million of these things had appeared on inhabited landmasses all over the world. They popped into existence, spent precisely twenty-three seconds looking around and taking notes, then vanished. This resulted in a number of heart attacks, car accidents, and throngs of people admitting themselves into rehab.
Debate raged. Did they teleport? Were they invisible and still among us?
And what notes did they take?

"It's your mother," Sadie said as she jostled me awake and handed me the phone. "I'll make coffee."
I put the phone somewhere in the vicinity of my head and grunted.
"Keith, I think your father's broken the computer again."
"No, Mother. He never breaks it. It just needs a reboot."
"I was reading a story about how the swallows hadn't arrived at Capistrano yet. Nobody knows where they are. Then I got all these numbers."
"Yes, there's always numbers. It's a computer."
"You sound tired, dear. Did I wake you? Call me back later."
And she was gone.
Sadie walked in a few minutes later, holding a cup of coffee in one hand and her handheld in the other.
"This isn't right," she said, handing both to me. "I think your connection is bad."
Several rows of numbers were scrolling up the browser. I sipped the coffee and squinted at them, first with familiarity, then with recognition. The first column was prime numbers, the second was the Fibonacci sequence, then a Cauchy sequence, then a harmonic series, and a few other numerical progressions.
"That's the look you had on your face the night we met," she said. "What is it?"
"I think someone wants to talk to us."

What was determined after the fact was this: That morning the internet was overrun by a number of computer viruses of extraterrestrial origin that quickly gestated into disembodied intelligences. For a few hours, all anyone could access was the scrolling numbers. After that, these intelligences redirected signals en masse and the entirety of internet traffic was routed into space by some unknown method. Websites began registering hits in the trillions, as almost all content available online was accessed by users not of this Earth. Webmasters and sysadmins were trying to figure out how that was possible, when the intelligences began actually changing the structure of the internet. New sites appeared, featuring pictures and videos of different alien races. Entities of all kinds created pages on social networking sites. If you were on MySpace or Facebook, by sundown half your registered friends were aliens. Many dismissed this as some hoax or promotional stunt, but it was shortly followed by the sudden appearance of amazing information: designs for building highly advanced robots, procedures for cloning and life extension, instructions for constructing ultra-fast quantum computers, and methods for uploading consciousness into those computers.
Having a variety of races from other planets talking to everyone on earth changed the world profoundly in two ways. First, every government and authority on the planet tried to spin, dispute, and otherwise control this flood of information, but it became clear very quickly that nobody was listening to them. Secondly, these intelligences literally cleaned up the web. All undesirable email ceased. Spam advertising for cheap pharmaceuticals vanished, as did insipid chain letters bearing specious and often false information, correspondence from foreign royalty seeking aid in transferring large amounts of cash, and revelations that women in your area want to meet YOU. Trolls found their ranting erased from chatrooms, and if they persisted they found their computers and handhelds ceased to work. Most advertising remained, but those annoying dancing figures that populated many of them were gone.
Sadie and I marveled at this and agreed that, in a very tangible way, the world was becoming a sweeter place.
So sweet, in fact, that few noticed when new stars began to appear in the sky.

"Imagine everybody in the restaurant is a planet with a star-faring culture," I said as the waiter brought our pasta.
"Okay," Sadie replied, making notes on her handheld. "If their orders take as long as ours, then the galaxy is going hungry tonight."
"Next, imagine that we are observers on Earth."
"Hmm. Now you're asking a lot…."
"All these cultures are communicating with one another, talking and interacting. But all we hear," I paused and tilted my head, "is background noise, a chaotic drone. Because none of them are talking to us."
Sadie speared a tube of ziti and examined it. "So why have we suddenly been contacted by so many in the past month? First the internet, then the radio messages. This morning I read that a lot of older folks claim some species can communicate to them in their dreams."
"The galaxy rotates," I said, swirling my spaghetti to illustrate. "The outer parts rotate slower than the inner parts. The theory is that our solar system is passing through a region of space thick with alien cultures. Vast groups of them. Somehow we caught their attention. First the junk ship, then the note-takers."
Sadie was chewing a forkful, and continuing to tap notes.
"How many reviews do you need to do this week?" I asked.
"Three. Now that every website knows it has a galactic readership, it wants to keep current."
"That makes sense. It is as if we drifted into a huge communication system." I looked around the restaurant. "I always thought first contact would bring panic. Instead, people just adjust their habits and adapt."
"I heard it's not just humans. Animals have been acting weird. Termites are building domes and ziggurats. Some species of crabs have begun singing. And migratory patterns are haywire. Venice is full of squid."
"Yeah, there's a report coming out tomorrow about how some species may be picking up transmissions that match their brainwaves."
"That still doesn't explain all the new stars in the sky."
"Oh," I said. "I thought you knew."
"I've been busy," she said. "Haven't been keeping up."
"Those aren't stars, they're ships. Thousands of them. That's their engines burning as they decelerate towards us."

The first one arrived the following day. It was a sleek metallic wedge twenty miles long. It slid smoothly into orbit, and promptly transmitted, "We heard you might have some junk."

"Five syllables, then seven, then five," I said.
"How is that a poem?" asked my mother.
"It's an ancient Japanese form. Trust me."
"Do they even have Mother's Day in Japan?"
I called the phenomenon Familial Exponential Perception: my parents had been with me for two days but it felt like a month. I had tried to talk them into going on a cruise, as I did every year, but my mother would hear none of it. Besides, they hadn't met Sadie yet. It occurred to me that my mother timed most of their visits over the years to correspond to her birthday or, in this case, Mother's Day. I was obviously not thinking at full strength, as I had genuinely thought composing a haiku for the occasion would go over well.
Dad and Sadie hit it off immediately, mostly due to Dad's abiding relationship with food. Meanwhile, my mother complained ceaselessly about all the aliens that had been landing across the globe in the last couple weeks.
"They're going to use up our atmosphere."
"They don't breathe our air, Mother. They brought their own."
"How do we know what they want with us?"
"Their technology is several levels of magnitude beyond ours. If they wanted to invade, destroy, or enslave us, it would have happened by now. I can't help it if they crossed light years only to discover that the world doesn't revolve around you."
"Don't be smart. I just want to know, why can't they just go home?"
"Now that's a sentiment I can agree with," I muttered under my breath.

By the time the first wave had finished, there were representatives from just over two hundred different races on Earth or, in the case of some of the larger machine species, in orbit around it. At some point a media commentator called them the Galactic Multitude, and the name stuck. It was literally impossible to go outside without seeing an actual extraterrestrial of some bizarre shape. They were everywhere, and doing pretty much everything. In one day I saw them talking with people, visiting a museum, smelling flowers, looking at cars in a showroom, examining the workings of a bicycle, staring raptly at a juggler, petting a cat, petting a dog, petting a pigeon, swimming in a river, and going to the movies.
That's not to say their arrival was without incident. Alien beings on your computer is one thing; Ships full of them landing on an almost-hourly basis was quite another. A few acts of terrorism occurred, as well as random, spontaneous eruptions of violence. Sadie and I stayed up one night watching reports of a man holding his family at gunpoint until all the aliens left.
"You can't make the world a significantly smaller place without a few people losing it," Sadie said as the man was suddenly teleported naked and unarmed into the back of a police car.
There were other reactions as well, like folks believing this was all some grand deus ex machina set in motion, or New Age adherents claiming the age of crystals and star-children was at hand. There was also an inexplicable increase in Elvis sightings. But if you plotted the whole of human behavior as a statistical curve on a graph, it looked pretty much the way it always had.
My mother forwarded me a news story about a four-mile-wide blue sphere that drifted down through the atmosphere near a cruise ship in the North Atlantic. It settled and bobbed on the ocean surface as it if weighed nothing. A few minutes later, a shadowy shape momentarily blocked out the sun, and an impossibly long sinewy limb reached down through the atmosphere. It gripped the sphere between six giant fingers, lifted it, and withdrew quietly back into space. As it did, three words were heard in every mind on the ship: "Sorry about that."
Sadie moved in on the first weekend of summer. The variables and constants of our personalities added up nicely. If there was such a thing as an Equation of Joy, our life was a good approximation.

As summer progressed, my mother began taking more of an interest in some of the Multitude. One race, she told me, produced a compound that effectively cured arthritis. She also found great wisdom in another species that kept inquiring why humans had not yet driven mosquitoes to extinction. To her, they were no longer strangers to be wary of, just more people, albeit strange and exotic, with virtues to be praised and foibles to be criticized.
She was especially fascinated by a contingent of pudgy six-eyed beings that claimed (as best as could be understood) to be psychic missionaries who had come to Earth to see its worst side. Their calling compelled them to experience the most corrupt, unsalvageable examples of humanity, so as to better understand it. Mother, a self-professed expert in what is wrong with people, had plenty of suggestions, all of which she explained to me in detail.
A group of sociologists took up the challenge. There were live webcasts as the missionaries were taken to maximum-security prisons and the worst neighborhoods in the grimiest cities. They were unimpressed. They were shown Las Vegas, Hollywood, Wall Street, and other places where crime and dishonesty were deeply embedded. They shrugged. Personal meetings were arranged with claims adjusters, well-dressed famous televangelists, stage mothers, psychic healers, con men, and other people whose livelihoods were built on graft and sham. The missionaries were perplexed. 
"Surely your race has done worse than this?" they asked.
The sociologists hypothesized that perhaps humanity had emerged from its worst stages of development, and that our darkest aspects lay in the past. It was decided to bring the missionaries to the Smithsonian, so they could partake of the historical records and read of the atrocities people had carried out throughout history.
My mother watched the live feed when they arrived in Washington DC. As their bus approached the National Mall they all screamed in unison. They cried out that they had never experienced corruption of that magnitude. It tainted their psychic abilities.
They were returned to their ship, making a sound that could only have been weeping.
Mother didn't call me for a full week, a new record.

"What I find fascinating are the exceptions to the rule," Sadie dictated into her handheld. "Our visitors are used to living among such a wide variety of lifeforms that they are for the most part tolerant. However, there are some races who find certain aspects of Terran culture highly offensive. A cyclopean species displays open contempt for 3D movies and Magic Eye images. A tribal carnivorous race finds stuffed animals and faux fur distasteful. Collective hives look down upon self-portraits and autobiographies. One ancient race that values jocularity above all else has judged the blues vulgar and abominable."
"Don't forget to mention that almost every race despises morning radio," I said.
The proliferation of dependable voice recognition was one of the minor effects of the introduction of alien technology. The major ones included condensing fuel from trace elements in the air, artificial telepathy, and localized control over the flow of time. This played havoc with a number of world economies. Many companies vanished overnight, only to be replaced with more ambitious ones with eyes on interplanetary markets.
Inversely, Earth found itself exporting a number of things that didn't exist in the greater cosmos. Slinkys were a big hit, as were chopsticks, stained glass, sponges, bagpipes, kaleidoscopes, air hockey, polka, and crossword puzzles, the concept of which was apparently unique to Earth.
Then, of course, there were the really big changes. More ships had entered our system. A number of interstellar cultures set up embassies in various cities. There was talk of tourism, migration, and repatriation. Massive constructs in geosynchronous orbit had begun extruding the gleaming stalks of space elevators towards several points on the equator. On the far side of the sun, Mars was being rapidly terraformed into a habitable world. Just beyond the moon, a luminous gateway the size of Rhode Island had been assembled. It was part of a network that linked distant solar systems, and in the last few days more ships had been emerging from it.
And leaving through it as well.
By Labor Day, it was clear that people had begun vanishing.
As the world underwent these sweeping transformations, more and more people began asking, "Why?" Why was the Multitude bestowing such beneficial gifts to us?

Sadie and I only had one real alien encounter of interest.
We went to the big fall festival, primarily to sate Sadie's serious love of carnival food. We were near the edge of the fair, polishing off some clam fritters, when a dozen or so short reptilian bipeds walked up and promptly informed us that they were here to conquer us. It seems they were a scouting party that had spotted this brightly lit, densely populated place by air and, since it must obviously be a major city, they would begin their reconnaissance here before deciding how best to tame us and claim our world.
It took me a few minutes to convince them that Sadie's uncontrollable peals of laughter were, in fact, a terrified reflex we humans make when confronted with imminent defeat. Once I did, I offered to personally show them this city if they showed mercy on Sadie and me when the conquest came. They agreed.
We led them beneath the arch that bore the word MIDWAY in blinking colorful letters. I pointed out parents strapping their children into the rides, and told them to watch and listen.
They did. They watched the carriages that flung their small captives along serpentine tracks at great velocities, the harnesses at the end of chains so long that when they were spun they extended nearly horizontally, and the small vehicles packed so tightly on a confined surface that collisions between them were almost constant.
They listened to the young ones scream as they were mercilessly swung, dangled, and gyrated, the parents smiling all the while.
"You do this to your children…" the conquerors kept repeating as they ran.
We learned later that these reptilian bipeds had yet to take over a single planet. Something always scared them off.
So, yes, Sadie and I saved the world from enslavement. You're welcome.

It should be noted that when your planet hosts a large number of aliens, Halloween kind of loses its meaning.
The official reports put the number of people who had left Earth at about a billion, though most folks suspected that the true number was far higher. Everyone knew someone who had gone. Jobs were abandoned, though usually there was an alien willing to take over. It was a hegira unrivalled in history. A few dozen impromptu spaceports had appeared throughout the Midwest and other sparsely populated regions of the world. Massive cars were ascending the space elevators regularly.
There were other forms of migration as well. Reliable sources claimed that the minds of the old and infirmed were being extracted from their bodies and placed into artificial ones, or rendered into virtual environments. Mother had a bedridden neighbor who now dwelled in a digital reconstruction of her childhood home.
In interviews and online discussions, some of the races that made up the Multitude had revealed that their worlds had once been less advanced. Then they found themselves swept up in the path of the Multitude, given technologies to travel among the stars. None of them admitted to knowing why.

We went to visit my parents for Thanksgiving. I noticed immediately that my mother was uncharacteristically untalkative. I watched her make dinner, and couldn't help noticing that her arthritis wasn't bothering her.
Over dinner, Sadie and Dad were talking about some of the alien restaurants that were opening and the odd new products that were appearing on supermarket shelves when my mother suddenly said, "The Amish have left."
We looked at her.
"Their entire community was carried off intact, buildings, farmland and all. They're not the only ones. Some Buddhists, a lot of back-to-nature hippies, aborigines, isolationist groups. Anybody reclusive, or who resisted progress, they've all left. They were told there were worlds out there set aside for people who wanted nothing to do with modern cultures. They could sit out the future on planets with plenty of resources and no outside influences."
She appeared shaken. I reached over and took her hand.
"All this time," she said, "I've been, I don't know, bitter that all this change was just foisted upon us."
"Change happens," I said. "Most of what the visitors brought was stuff we would have made or developed eventually."
"I know. But people used to argue about…you and I, Keith, we argued about technology and computers and the rate at which things were progressing. A year ago, all the big arguments were about values and how far we should go. People complained that the future was happening too fast or not fast enough. Now that's been taken out of our hands. Part of me misses the arguing. But I see all these people leaving and becoming part of something so much bigger, and I realize if your values can't stand up to that much change, are they really worth having?"
We had dessert and watched a movie, then Sadie and I drove home.
My mother's question echoed in my head the entire time.

Sadie had hung mistletoe everywhere, and never let any of it go to waste on me. When we weren't kissing she was sending me off on errands. We had both been busy in the weeks leading up to the holidays. Another phase of modifications had occurred throughout the internet, and there were a lot of software changes to keep up. Meanwhile, Sadie was writing about recent alien influence in the culinary world. We hadn't spent a lot of time together in the past few days, and were really looking forward to the holidays.
I was picking up a bottle of wine for a party we were attending that night when my handheld chimed. I checked the ID. It was my mother. I had a few more things to finish and not a lot of time, so I didn't answer it.
Sadie and I got dressed up, but before we went out she handed me a slim box with a ribbon.
"I thought we weren't doing presents until we got back," I said.
"Just this one," she replied.
It was a scarf. Emblazoned along it in bright red were the prime numbers 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, and 17. I smiled and wrapped it around my neck with a flourish.
We attended the party, caught up with friends, exchanged the latest tidbits on aliens and technology, had good food, made several toasts, and otherwise enjoyed ourselves, as humans had been doing most of their history.
When we got home there was a message on the machine.
"Your father and I," my mother's voice said, "are on a space elevator. A group of us retirees are going on a tour, a space cruise I guess. Some nice beings have offered to show us a few of the more interesting planets. Your father promises to send reports on the food back to Sadie. I should go drag him away from the buffet. Love you both. Bye."
"Yeah, I saw that coming," Sadie said.
"You did?" I replied.
"Sure, she's been thinking about roads not taken and all that. I think it took a world-shattering series of events to make her see the world around her."
"Which she promptly leaves."
"Why settle for the world revolving around you when there's a galaxy out there?"
Sadie's words triggered a thought. I looked out the window. It was a clear night. I could make out the engine burns of ships rising in their ascent curves. The moon was full, and near it the bright glow of the gateway pulsed. The rest of the sky was full of stars that no longer held nearly as much mystery, but were full to the brim with promise and possibilities.
"They being pragmatic," I said, turning to Sadie. "A group of cultures interacting across the cosmos, exchanging ideas and advancements, exploring and expanding. Then they come across a less-advanced planet, riddled with schisms, burdened with the ability to inflict great damage and suffering, subject to the whims of nature and chance, punishing itself trying to learn its place in the universe. What does the Multitude do? Do they leave the planet to its fate? Quarantine it? Indifferently avoid it until the inhabitants either advance or destroy themselves?"
"No," whispered Sadie. "They invite us to the party."
"Right. They show us that the arguments are irrelevant, that we can't really learn our place by spinning our wheels here. They reveal all of the exhilarating potential, the latent truth that our lives can be so much more than we've always believed. A better future becomes a real and tangible certainty, and we, each of us, decide if we want to participate."
Sadie handed me a box. It was wrapped in graph paper, her little joke. I stared at the graph, and in my mind I plotted my life's trajectory over the past year. Mother calls me. I get lost. Sadie and I fall into each other's orbits. Two hundred races converge on our world, triggering innumerable interactions and pulling our common denominators out from under us. The Earth spins from one age into the next. People leave, tracing radial pathways across the stars, plying divergent courses into the future. We become a vibrant new member of the Galactic Multitude. Our destinies multiply and divide. The equations of joy arc sharply towards the infinite.
I opened the box. It was a paperweight made of veined gray marble, in the shape of a perfect tetrahedron.
"Four triangular faces," she said, smiling.
But hers was the only face I saw.

Jeff's Notes: I've had the first three lines of this story sitting in a file of stray dialog for years. so I decided to build from it and see what happened. A lot of stuff went through my mind as I started: getting older, the idea of Peace on Earth, my recent trip to the Maine Solar System Model, and the idea of world-changing advancement as a gift. Greg Egan's work and Neal Stephenson's Anathem showed me the possibilities of math as a dramatic element. A few of the alien news stories were also culled from my idea file. A week of good old fashioned hacking and shaping, and 5300-plus words later, this is the result.
Art-wise, this past year I was really admiring the work of Alex Nino, Stephen Martiniere, Doug Chiang and Simone Bianchi, all of whom influenced some aspect of the cover.

ADDENDUM: On the day after I mailed off the card, I began listening to the audiobook of The Last Theorem by Arthur C. Clarke and Frederic Pohl. I am staggered by the parallels: a mathematician falling in love and coping with family matters, a space elevator, even the light of starship deceleration appearing in the sky. If I had been exposed to the book before writing this story, it probably would have come out very different.
Copyright 2008 Bad Day Studio