A friend was laughing at me last week for my apparent inability to get the serial story installments online early in the day. To that friend, I say… “Ha!”. Here it is, the weekly installment of…
Chapter 2 – part 3
The military guy ground to a halt, fairly bristling with urgency. Having delivered his instructions, he began to stare at Vančura, who just nodded at him, then leaned back in his chair.
“Who is this?”
“Name’s Vančura, according to his chip,” said the doctor.
“Chip? You mean, he’s been through?”
Excitement made the military man’s voice hoarse. Behind him, Benwright rolled his eyes and broke in before the doctor could reply.
“Yes, sir, apparently he has. Sounds crazy, but everything checked out. Now, what’s this about needing the STAd online? What’s the problem?”
His superior answered absently, without looking away from Vančura.
“This whole project sounds crazy; one more bit of it doesn’t really change much. And why can’t you call the blasted thing the “knothole”, like everyone else does, instead of STAd? What does it stand for, again? The space and time… anomaly… device?”
Benwright winced and shook his head.
“It’s a Space-Time Aberration device, sir. But what happened? Last I heard, we still had two months before the management was even going to make a decision on this version of the device.”
“Knothole works fine for us normal people, right, doc? Anyway, Benwright, it’s all classified and your security clearance isn’t high enough. Something went south in another project and the brass wants us to see if we can pre-empt the accident with the knothole. That’s all you need to know.”
Eddie had been unhappy with his entire situation, from the cop car to the prison bus and on to his entrance to the facility. The appearance of the army guy had made him even less happy. The new conversation had a lot of words he didn’t know, particularly ‘aberration’, but he understood the phrase ‘went south’ just fine. Trouble for these guys definitely meant trouble for him. He didn’t know about Vančura, though; trouble for everyone else might not mean much to the big guy.
Ear still pressed to the door, he listened anxiously. The technician, Benwright, sounded shocked.
“Above my clearance? Sir, you’re going to have to tell me what’s going on, if you need the STAd online and working. That thing makes pure oxygen look nice and stable; if it’s not calibrated exactly for whatever you send through…”
The reply was more of a growl than anything else.
“Trailing off ominously like that is a nice touch, a real nice touch. I don’t have my glasses on me, so don’t make me read between your lines. You’re obviously not going to do any work on the STAd until you have your say, so just sketch it out for me?”
Eddie grinned at that. He didn’t like any of the people on the other side of the door, except maybe Vančura, but he appreciated a blunt talker. The educated types always tried to talk circles around a man. After a moment, the technician replied, but his voice was sullen, the wind taken out of his sails by the brusque response.
“Colonel, picture the STAd as a… as a plate balanced on a toothpick and you want to roll an orange from one side of the plate to the other. Something obviously has to roll in the opposite direction at the exact same rate to keep it balanced.”
“I’ve heard this before. Skip to the interesting part.”
“Yes, sir. Without that… opposite force… rolling across the plate, the whole system falls apart. The plate tilts, the toothpick leans, and everything slams into the table. The STAd is the plate, whatever we send through is the orange, and the STAd balances out the weight of the orange with a high frequency current running through magnetic coils.”
It was probably all very interesting, but by the time Benwright paused, Eddie was drifting off to sleep. The technician’s voice had dumped him back in his 10th grade science class and reminded him of how much sleep he got during the lectures.
Before he could doze off completely, however, Vančura interrupted the technician again.
“And, Colonel Bozse, if your techie there doesn’t know exactly what is going through the knothole, down to the last gram of iron and tenth-ounce of carbon, his little plate analogy gets scaled up. It doesn’t happen yet or I wouldn’t be here, obviously, but I’ve heard Benwright describe it often enough to make a guess at what might happen. Chunks of this region yanked into the same region ten years ago. Or a thousand years ago. Or yesterday. Maybe bits and pieces of tomorrow or last century pulled through into today. Some of your development team came up with the hypothesis that the STAd isn’t the plate in the analogy, it’s just the balance weight for the orange. If that’s the case, this whole section of the universe is the plate and if it falls off its cosmic toothpick… to be honest., I don’t even have a guess at what would happen then.”
End Chapter 2 – Part 3
Go to Chapter 3 – Part 1
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