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Story 6

Hajime Saito

Tom Godwin's "The Cold Equations" is arguably one of the best science fiction short stories ever written: the perfect blend of science and superb storytelling. It is a sterling example of the art of the short story. Hajime Saito uses that stoy as the basis for "The Thinning Equations".

Dear Reader -

Your assignment for today is to pick an appropriate ending to "The Thinning Equations" by Hajime Saito.

You will not be recompensed in any way. You have only your sense of civic duty brilliantly discharged to reward your efforts.

Born in 1960 in Gunma, northwest of Tokyo, Hajime Saito is a science fiction, fantasy, and mystery writer. He made his literary debut in 1988 with the mystery novel "Omoidoori ni endo maaku". He has also authored several fantasy books, including the "Mahou monogatari" trilogy (1990-1996).

Toshiya Kamei translates short fiction and poetry. His translations have appeared or are forthcoming in "Abyss & Apex", "Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores", "F&SF", "Helios Quarterly Magazine", and "Samovar".

Incidentally, there is no relation between the two Saitos. It's a fairly common surname in Japan, like Smith or Jones.


The Thinning Equations
by Hajime Saito
Translated by Toshiya Kamei


"No, it can't be!" I cried.

No, no way. Never had I imagined that the "Cold Equations" scenario would unfold on the spaceship I was on.

"Hey, you won't eject me into space, will you?"

Just as I suspected, she had no idea.

Young people these days lacked basic knowledge. Because of the limited fuel supply, the added mass, namely, this stowaway girl would have to be jettisoned in order to reach the destination. It was the law. It wasn't called a cold equation for nothing. At one time everyone knew such a thing. That was why stowing away was illegal.

     But we humans weren't stupid. It was essential to have a backup plan ready in case something happened. Surely, there was a contingency plan of some sort.

"Wait a moment. I thought something like this might happen...."

I touched the control panel, and the door of the emergency system storage bay slid open.

There appeared a so-called "thinning machine." That was it. A bill was passed into law, a budget was allocated, and then the machines were installed on board all deep-space vessels.

"What's this?"

"Our bodies contain an estimated ten thousand trillion cells, all of which are indispensable for living, but not all cells are unique. Except for the neurons, most cells have the same function as the cell next to them. In other words, they can be substituted."

"Huh? What?"

"Well, well, simply put, only half of your cells will be ejected into space, and then half of my cells will be ejected as well. It doesn't mean that we'll be split into two. As adjacent cells are united in one, you'll be half. In short, you'll be thinned."

"Wow. So this machine will do that for you, huh?"

The girl was pretty, but she didn't seem too bright. What else could one expect from a stowaway? An airhead.

"Fully automatic. Just set the timer and the machine will do the rest," I said with a solemn face.

Punchline 1

Thus we escaped danger as half of what we used to be. We fell in love with each other, which was a matter of course, as we had gone through a lot together.

It was, of course, a fling... no, it was a thin relationship.

Punchline 2

     "What is this?"

The thinning machine didn't start. As I checked the interior, I discovered that it was filled with junk electronics. The bill was passed, but the technology of the thinning machine wasn't complete.

"It's over!"

"Hey, why don't you just throw this junk away?"

She was right. The junk had the mass of three girls or two plump women.

Punchline 3

"You do it first and prove it's safe."

I couldn't bring myself to say no. However, I never expected to be subjected to the thinning machine again immediately afterwards.

As I was diluted in half, I couldn't fight the girl.

"If three quarters of you is ejected, it'll be the same as ejecting the whole me."

I'd have to take back what I said about her not being smart. At least she seemed to know how to calculate.

 The End

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