I post this. I claim neither PP nor a relationship change and none of you tries to get this removed from the plot summary. It shall be a gentlemen’s truce. Sound good?
“...so, as you can see on chart thirteen, already highly stressed chemical bonds can be further agitated using a variety of amplified energy wave outputs…”
DEAR GOD. He’s reading right off the slide. Why is he reading right off the slide? I see the slide. The slide is right in front of me. Why is he reading off it?
“...causing a cross-pollenation, if you will, of interdimensional trans-temporal properties, the net result, theoretically, being a substantive resonance breach…”
That’s on the slide too. THAT’S ALL ON THE SLIDE OHMYGODI’MGOINGTOSTRANGLETHISMAN. He must die at my hands.
Damon Flatley, PhD, Theoretical Physics with a concentration in Dimensional Topography (Cal Tech ‘04, junior dimensional specialist, Dimensional Defense Force) sat in a mostly empty auditorium at the 4th annual International Dynamic Planar States Conference. He was bored. He was hungover. His head throbbed. His notepad was covered with doodles; most inappropriate for youngsters.
Professor Naoto Hashimoto of St. Anthony University, the host institution for this year’s conference, continued with his mind-numbingly boring lecture on the properties of certain agitated alloys in certain experimental states with certain finely-tuned physical stresses. It was all very certain: mostly in how uncertain the outcomes of such trials would be.
“Now, I’d like to bring you to one interesting possibility. Here we have the highly unstable alloy known as ‘flebotnum.’”
Damon dropped his pencil and snapped to attention.
The good professor continued, “I’m sure few of you have worked with flebotnum before, given its inherently dangerous properties, and the fact that it is practically worthless in all but the most refined states. Currently, only the most expensive laboratories in the world have the centrifuges capable of refining flebotnum to a pure enough state, but due to lack of practical uses for flebotnum, few have spent the money to do so.”
Damon leaned in.
“However, myself and members of the Pan-Dimensional Consortium, a group of scientists studying the possibilities of inter-dimensional travel, have concluded that flebotnum has extra-chronographical properties.”
Damon began to scribble.
“Using a variety of frequencies, we bombarded a piece of 99.8% refined flebotnum with energy; our studies are more fully detailed in Appendix Q, but I’d like to point you to one interesting result.”
Damon flipped to Appendix Q (page 365, for those following at home).
“When bombarded with a simple but highly tuned laser beam, of an output approaching that used in prototype experimental weaponry, we found that the flebotnum became increasingly agitated, emitting a significant amount of iota-wave radiation.” The professor took off his glasses and set them on the podium.
“Iota waves?!” Damon wrote down in his notebook. He knew all about them—they were integral for the time travel of humans and all other biological matter.
“While this is all highly speculative, it is entirely possible that a pure enough sample of flebotnum, when bombarded with a sufficient quantity of amplified light waves, such as through a laser beam, could, when placed under high degrees of stress, shift all life on earth into a cross-dimensional state. The effects would be…well, as best we can theoretically determine, all biological life on earth would cease to exist in our ‘dimension’...momentarily, at least.”
Damon sat back in his chair and pondered. He knew the DDF had been chasing a device that used flebotnum for temporal-tempering purposes; but as far as he knew no part of the process involved radiating flebotnum with lasers. Also, DDF had yet to find any flebotnum refined to pure enough a state to be a reliable emitter of iota rays. He had nothing to worry about, right?
Damon smiled and doodled that cute girl from human resources.
* * *
FLASHBACK TO: Beneath Shade Industries
Jzzt~! “Ow!” Shade drew his hand back from the Black Swan, sucking on his lightly burnt finger.
What the hell? Shade thought; he had pulled the Swan out of his pocket to check on it, but when he touched it the damn rock fired off an electrical charge.
Shade picked it back off of the ground. It didn’t shock him this time, but the ore seemed to continue to emit a field reminiscent of the kind one feels when rubbing a balloon on their hair.
“Are you alright, Shade?”
Shade stuffed the Black Swan into the case and got back to his feet, turning to face the Shade that had, as of a week ago, made his life so very, very interesting.
The Shade of times yet arrived stood in the dim light of the warehouse’s underground emergency exit. The DDF had stormed the building and; with the odds turning against the Shades so, they had decided on the only honorable course: sacrifice Shade Industries’ minions so the two of them could flee unnoticed into the secret exit passage.
The two had hustled for some five hundred yards before coming to a stop to tend to their wounds. The cave, except for the occasional drop of water on the stone floor, was silent. No DDF agents had yet followed them, but they would be sure to detect the passage way eventually.
The present’s Shade looked down at his leg and thigh; the laser had burned his leg, his hip, his waist, and of course…the Black Swan. He opened his mouth to tell the other Shade about the damage suffered by his valuable cargo—
“Give me the flebotnum.”
Shade drew back. He could sense that the Black Swan was his last bit of leverage and should not be parted with so easily. He did not trust this Shade; he did not trust how in the dark he had been kept; he did not appreciate the amount of faith on which he had been forced to operate. Now he wanted answers.
“You have to tell me where we’re going, first.”
Shade produced a pistol.
“No. Give it to me.”
Shade reached into his singed pocket.
* * *
Hilario withdrew from chatting with a pair of his technicians and turned back to Marcus Shade.
“So, where is the Mr. Shade from this busy time period?”
Shade laughed, a laugh that came from somewhere deep in his throat; a laugh that came to a rest before it could escape his mouth.
“He’s indisposed of.”
Vandenbergh scratched his chin, yawning. “I do hope your accuracy is good, it would have been a shame for the Swan to be damaged this late in the production.”
“The rock hasn’t been touched.”
* * *
FLASHBACK TO: Shade Industries
Lt. Comm. Ashby Taylor, acting field commander of the DDF tactical response team, stood in the door way to the single most secure vault in Shade Industries.
His face was hard and dirty. The battle for Shade Industries had likely lasted only fifteen minutes in real time, but in combat things moved differently. They moved slower. And hey, Ashby thought to himself, wasn’t all time relative, anyhow?
His radio sparked to life, “Commander, the door should be opening in two…one…”
KA-CHUNG. Air escaped in a loud “Whiffffffff…”
The door swung open, and there stood the Antarctica device. The DDF had captured it.
“Noah, alert base that we have the football. Swan remains unsecured, however.”
They were missing the Black Swan. Then again, no one was even sure it was anywhere near Shade Industries. They had just hoped to get lucky. But alas, it was not to be. The absence of Shade was troubling as well, thought Taylor. But he had men searching every nook and cranny of the warehouse; DDF support teams had the perimeter surrounded; he would turn up. For now, they had the Antarctica machine and Lt. Comm. Taylor knew that without it, the Black Swan was worthless.
“I’m patching Rodlen through now, sir.”
Taylor’s radio crackled. “Lt. Comm., I’m sorry about your loss. But sacrifices must be made. Ruby knew that.”
Taylor nodded. At least it was over.
* * *
The ARCTIC device whirred to life.
“You’ve done good work.” Hilario puffed smoke out of the side of his mouth, emptying his pipe in the process.
And Shade had done good work—everything that had been asked of him. Unlike in his original timeline, where the DDF had wound up with the Black Swan, it was now being loaded into Vandenbergh’s machine. And, unlike his original timeline, Vandenbergh had second-generation equipment: the ARCTIC device capitalized on all the known flaws of the Antarctica device Shade had originally seen deployed. It had been a long journey.
Shade could overhear one of the engineers speaking to Vandenbergh, “Sir, the device is ready for activation.”
Vandenbergh smiled. Shade sat down. Hilario turned to Shade.
“Well, Marcus, are you prepared to have a very merry Christmas?”
The machine dominating the cavern groaned. The ARCTIC device and its flebotnum—flebotnum of an unbelievably refined nature, flebotnum that had been agitated and fused by exposure to a concentrated laser burst, flebotnum that was being incredibly stressed—was about to test Professor Hashimoto’s hypothesis.
If the professor was right…reality itself would hardly know what hit it.
Hilario threw the switch.
* * *
Jason Smith meandered down a glorious sidewalk set amongst trees and sea views; he stopped for a moment and looked out into the water. It had been a month to remember. But through it all—the death of Andrea, a near-kidnapping, the involvement of a sinister villain and a bunch of lunatic extra-dimensional vigilantes, more bacon cheeseburgers than he could count, and the biggest project of his career—he had persevered. He had made it. Now, he looked forward to spending tomorrow celebrating Christmas with some rest and relaxation.
But up above the fates had different ideas. The meteorite screamed to earth; the trials of the atmosphere had caused it to shrink but it remained strong; hurtling through the atmosphere at terminal velocity; streaking towards its destination; delivering death and destruction to any poor soul who happened to be within a 10 meter radius…
Little did either party know that a lone tax sorter and a speeding meteorite both intended to be at the same place at the same time.