The Brane Skip device designed in the twenty-second century is intended to move a spaceship between the membranes of reality in order to get around the universal speed limit: 'Thou shall not go faster than light'. The theory behind the device is unproven, the technology experimental, but if there are side paths through the universe of normal space, there should be short cuts where speed limits simply don't apply.
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Not so long ago, on a planet not too far away, a quirky inventor washes up on a desert island and discovers devices that defy belief. They appear to be clockwork automatons, but he has never seen their like, and, brilliant as he is, he cannot imagine how they can do the things they do — which is pretty much anything asked of them. Such amazing…
The unmanned tests of the Brane Skip are inconclusive. The probes wink out and then back into existence, but all they record in between is a mysterious gray haze. No one knows where they go. But they must go somewhere. The automated systems can't say. It's time to send volunteers.
The Brane Skip seems like magic to Lisa Chang, the young engineer in command the first crewed test flight, and Chang doesn't believe in magic. But she does believe in the mission. Humanity must explore space in order to survive and prosper, and she feels honored to be among the first to go where no one has gone before. She does not know what will happen when the Brane Skip device engages. She thinks it will do nothing. She fears it will explode. What she does not expect is popping out adrift in space and on a collision course with a fantasy version of Earth, complete with dragons, orcs, and wizards.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens.