The Garden of Daedalus V

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"What did you think was going to happen?" I shouted, but the approaching sirens took my every word away. Not that he couldn't get the gist -he had, after all, just tried to push me off a speeding car so I probably wasn't reciting poetry to him. He gasped, struggling to speak; one of my defensive blows had landed on his throat, making him lose control of the car, crashing us on the rails.
I unbuckled fast, took off my heels and ran away barefoot and trembling with fury, before the ambulance or the police could get near our wreck.
When I stumbled back home, I saw that Daedalus V had been smashed into useless pieces. Anger now quenched, I spent the night sitting among the plastic fragments, mute. Doing nothing.

He found me a few days later, in my office. I still hadn't called the police on him; perhaps, I was having a hard time reconciling "best friend" with "aspirant murderer" in my mind.
"This is why," he said quickly, before I even had time to glare at him, and left a pile of paper on my desk. He knew me too well; I could never resist sliding my hands through paper.
Five seconds later, I had learned better.
"Are you an idiot?" I demanded. "I dismantled Daedalus myself. Would I consider these an excuse?"
"Please, please keep looking." Unlike the pristine paper, he was crumpled and smudged, like a serial sleepwalker. I sighed and looked down at the graphs, keeping a bit of my attention towards him in case he charged me, pen knife in hand.
He had just handed me Daedalus' last children, 56 alternate universes, printed out and stapled together. The diagrams looked like labyrinths at first, which is why we had named the supercomputer after the ancient architect. I myself had thought they looked like trees, forbidden trees, so I had suggested we call it God 2.0. The unreligious had snickered and the religious had glowered, so Daedalus it was and I had pretended I was too busy staring at my phone for the rest of the afternoon.
But "God 2.0" had suited our project so much better. You see, years ago, we thought it would have been fun to create a program mapping alternate universes; If a new universe is born every time a decision is made, would you not want to know what happened to this other self of yours? How your world would be if you had bought the blue dress, or declined your husband's public, embarrassing marriage proposal? What happened if you quit, to be a stay-at-home dad?
They say nobody can know the future, but Daedalus could, a plethora of them. You entered the parameters and it delivered, worlds upon worlds for every "if", a thousand universes per minute. There were hiccups; we eventually learned to eliminate the most bizarre outcomes, to weigh probabilities. No, there is no universe where you get the Nobel, no matter how many parameters you change. Stop asking, Ben.
Unfortunately, it only took three weeks till my co-workers were feeding Daedalus other kinds of questions. I had found the first bad omens shredded in the trash, and hesitantly checked Daedalus' recycle bin. The questions they had asked and then deleted -what happens if I go after my rapist? If I use poison? If I do it with a gun? What if I pay someone, do I get caught then? What happens if I set fire to the whole department and ran with Daedalus' core in my book bag?
I watched my colleagues, my family away from family, lose themselves forever among the forbidden trees. Parva, who had started planning the department's takeover with Daedalus' help, was the least worrying. Ben committed suicide. Anna discovered some things about her family and well, now I know that severe nervous breakdowns are no fun at all. Clive found his perfect alternate universe somewhere in this endless forest and became convinced we could merge with it, if only we changed some tiny things. Five days into his quest, he disappeared without trace.
Forget God; by the end of the year we were all exiles from Eden. I ran the calculations we should have began with: was Daedalus a good thing, in any conceivable universe?
No, of course not. Through a forest of multiple possibilities the same story whispered itself, again and again: In the only scenario which did not end with disaster, Daedalus never was.
In the end, I did what I had to do: I decommissioned Daedalus, erased our work and only kept the computer's core as a reminder in my living room. After all, it was not its fault that we had been lousy at self-restraint.

I raised my head from the stack of paper. "I thought you were dead" I told Clive.
"Only way you would let me live."
Unfair, but understandable. I had taken care of everyone else after all. "Not true. Of all the others, you were the least likely to cause lasting harm."
"Did Daedalus tell you that?"
I nodded, and then Ι understood, half-way. "You changed the parameters!"
"It is not a crystal ball, you said it yourself. It cannot know the future, it only maps theoretical models, depending on what you feed it. I lied to it -I had to stay alive."
Of course.
In another universe, another me had spotted the tampering early enough. Sang Clive to sleep, like the rest. I felt an odd relief, knowing that her universe was going to keep existing.
"Not that I blame you," I said, laying back "but... you know what happens if you live, right?"
He nodded. Out of the 56 charts he had handed me, only one ended in his perfect world but I knew that this was the only one that he could see. "I have to keep trying, Jocelyn" he said gently. "I am sorry."
I recognized this as universe number 45.97, and closed my eyes before the shot.

About the Author: 
Dimitra is a columnist, editor and PhD candidate in the field of cultural studies, hiding her shameful love for STEM sciences in sci-fi excuses.