Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Decker #21

"I can only speculate that the spatial and temporal boundaries of a great number of causality matrices have warped, or lost integrity," Tut explained as he dug through the pile of tools and instruments. "I have seen minor temporo-spatial anomalies on occasion, but never anything of this magnitude. Deck-, ah,, would one of you take the back panel off the protein modulus assessment unit? The big orange device on the end. This will defeat the mag-latches." He tossed Degren a clear, hot-dog-sized cylinder full of colored wires with a button on the side and a pencil-eraser-shaped gray protrusion at one end. "Hold it over each red dot and press the button once. Don't press the button unless you are directly on a red dot, or it may degauss the molecular degradation inhibitors. There are records of a similar disturbance in the Pentrax Cluster three galactic revolutions ago, but the causality grid there is at least three factors denser than here in the Spiral Arm Sector. While he's doing that, will you lay out all the small equipment we brought from the apartment and organize it by shape and size? Use that table, but drag it right"
Tut kept up a constant flow of instructions and speculations as he bustled from device to device, rewiring circuits and stringing wires. They gleaned from his discourse that their odds of success were not very good, and that cataclysmic events involving a large part of the universe could be the result if they failed. Tut bemoaned the loss of the "temporo-spatial grid monitor", as he called the device they'd brought back from the shipwreck, as, apparently, it offered them a much better chance of success.
"My hypothesis is that we are witnessing an extreme example of the 'butterfly effect', in which the permutations of one small occurrence stimulate phase reverberation throughout the cosmic fabric of an area, sending out ripples that amplify as they recede from the point of occurrence. I am operating under the assumption that your, er, friend, Furge, is the nexus of this event. Hand me that oscillation inhibitor, would you? Blue oval with a yellow filament cluster at the narrower end. Thank you. If my hypothesis is correct, we will find that the reality matrix of Decker's world is as yet relatively undisturbed, as the amplification only begins compounding after the third return. Ah, good; the tesseract redundancy detector is intact. It's the octopus at the top right in the case, next to the large gold sphere. Carefully pinch each snake tip to disconnect it, then reach underneath and toggle the release mechanism set in the bottom, then gently....gently...slip it out and bring it here. There's no way we can be certain regarding calibration of our extemporaneous assembly, but we will hope that I can open a window onto your...Earth, do you call it? Yes, open a window to the site of the disturbance, hypothetically where Furge will be, and surround him with a time-space insulation bubble until we can find a reverse harmonic that rectifies his field."
"What if it isn't Furge that's disrupting the um, temporo-spatial grid?" Decker asked, "What if it's somehow connected to Lizzy and her people?"
"That possibility did cross my mind," Tut answered, "but I find it unlikely that they would need the device if they were able to generate such a causal disturbance without it, and have knowledge of it in the first place. It's existence must have been revealed to them during your exploration for it; they do have a rather sophisticated espionage network for their state of advancement. It would worry me greatly that they have discovered this survey locus if there weren't much larger concerns at hand. I haven't ruled out the possibility of their culpability in this catastrophe, but given my interpretation of the data, I must pursue the Furge line first."
"Then why do they want the device, and what if they have it?"
"It is likely that they wish to defeat the causality reverberations generated by Furge, too, but we have studied their development more closely than yours, and I calculate our chance of success to be better by several factors of ten. The screwdriver, please, Phillips head number two. Additionally, my assessment of your recount of the skirmish indicates that Lizzy had little opportunity to abscond with the device. Something else must have happened to it. Spilled milk at this point. Several trillion cattle's worth, but spilled milk nonetheless."
After several hours of work, Tut indicated that their services were no longer necessary. "It's just a matter of circuit tracking and tweaking now," he said. "I'll need to apply my full attention to the rest of the process, so kindly excuse yourselves to an hour or two of leisure. Browse the stasis pods and the freezers for refreshment if you like; the blue-labeled storage should be within your digestive parameters. The radiant cooker is a veritable antique, very likely acquired from "Earth" as you call it. Its workings may very well be familiar to you. Decker, you can be proud to know that your people made a tangible contribution to the cosmic culinary arts."
Decker was amused to find a chrome-and-black, ceramic-topped Kitchenaid electric range among many less familiar devices in the galley. They dug around in the various coolers, freezers, and other storage units for blue-labeled items, ending up with a selection of snacks that most resembled the packaged junk food of Decker's home. Degren found himself oddly comforted by a bowl of smooth, creamy, red-orange soup that Decker muttered "mmm mmm good" over.
It amazed both men how accustomed they had become to such fantastic environments. "In my world, we have authors that write books about such things," Decker said. "This is like Castenada meets Clarke, with a twist of Laumer."
I recall nothing like this from where I lived," Degren said, "but these names sound somehow familiar to me. I'm beginning to doubt that Taruan was my home in the first place. I am finding more affinity to your world, Earth, than to Taruan, and more memories that align with yours of Earth as well. Shit and shit, Decker, who am I?"
"You're starting to sound a bit like me, pal."
They sat silently for a while, each lost in his own thoughts as they snacked on chips and cakes, candies and compartment-ed dinners. Occasionally they'd note a brief flickering of the lights or a wavering of the walls, and a general sense of displacement tickled the edges of their senses, as though the ground under them was moving imperceptibly in every direction at once. They were both starting to feel sleepy when Tut appeared.
"Gentlemen, I believe we are ready to make our initial test. Kindly bring a few of your food items with you; we'll use those to determine the efficacy of my alterations."
They gathered up a selection of processed meats, chips, cakes, and bottled beverages and followed Tut to his impromptu work station. He had transformed their mess of assorted parts into something that most resembled Decker's idea of a miniature, futuristic metropolis, with lights glowing and pulsing everywhere and tubes coursing with holograph holographic images up and down the tower-like elements of the tiny city. At the center of it all, at the junction where two broad tables had been pushed together to accommodate the circle of interconnected devices, was a bulls-eye of tubes similar to the ones that ascended the sides of the devices, overlaid with a thick, circular disc of bluish, transparent material some four feet in diameter.
"Place your food items in the center of the circle," Tut said, "and then come over here and stand with me." He was behind a small console some six feet away from the main cluster. The console was connected to the cluster by a braid of cables and tubes, along which light and holograms pulsed to and fro from the console to the cluster. Once they stood on either side of him, he made a brief explanation of the console.
"The three central dials govern the temporal nexus location. As far as we have discovered, time seems to operate in three dimensions, much as perceptible space tends to. The lever below those, oriented side to side, is a linear representation of the river, which is, as far as we've come to understand, the operating parameters of our matrix of conjoined realities. Top right, top left, and bottom center are the dials for spatial coordination in the singular reality we will attempt to enter. The video screen above will, hopefully, offer an image of the physical location we home in on; the side slider under the screen is for magnification, which controls not just the view size but the transmission window size. The three vertical slide levers at the lower left control the percentage of power we apply to each function: Time, space, and river position. The large red button, lower right, is the power. Beside that is the actuator lever, which is pulled down slowly to finalize the transmission. For our first test, we will attempt only to move your food items in space within the parameters of this reality. I intend to place them back on the table where you were eating."
He pressed the red button and the miniature cityscape pulsed bright blue, while the screen lit up in static snow. He brought the center vertical slide up to 10% and green undertones pulsed in the tubes. He centered the three middle knobs on zero, then moved the bottom one clockwise a half degree or so. An image of the cafeteria emerged from the fuzz, with a black circle outline at the center. He fiddled with the side slider below the screen, adjusting the circle size to accommodate the volume of the items in the center of the apparatus.
Tut adjusted his glasses, then rubbed his hands together and turned to look at the two men. "Of course, this is all based on unproven hypothesis, in fact uncollaborated hypothesis. Flusteun's First Law of Parallelity does seem to lead one to assume that temporo-spatial multiplicities can be aligned with non-cosmotic force, which has been proven to exist outside the plaxo-bubbles of all reality dynamics, so-"
"Push the goddamned button, Tut!" Decker put his palms up and shrugged his shoulders. "Prove your hypothesis pronto, 'cause if it fails, we've got to try another tack."
The turtle-man gave Decker a highly magnified glare, then pushed the button. There was a soft "pop" and a whoosh, and the items disappeared from the center of the apparatus. Tut watched the screen, but Decker and Degren gazed over at the table where they'd been sitting. Something wavered there, then all the items popped into view.
"Hooo-eee, sweet shittin' Jesus Tut, you did it!" Degren looked more surprised than either of his friends when he realized the string of epithets had dropped from his lips.
Decker laughed, "You took the words right out of my mouth, bro!"
"It isn't time for celebration yet, gentlemen," Tut said. Let's inspect the subjects of our little transportation experiment before we get too excited." He rushed anxiously to the cafeteria table and began taking small samples from each container and bag.
What're you going to do with that stuff?" Decker challenged.
"I'll take it up to the cosmotics lab one floor up for some chromatic assessment."
"Do we have time for that? Here, lemme." Decker stuffed one of the chips in his mouth. "Tastes just like it did before." He grabbed for the chip bag on the table. "Matter of fact, I'm feeling a mite pecki-" His lips slapped shut as he tried to pick up the bag and found that almost a third of it was imbedded in the table. "What the-" He tugged on the bag, then his face collapsed in dismay as he realized, "You transported the chips into the table! Fuck!"
"I'll have to realign the phase shift inverter relays," Tut said, dropping the items he'd gathered and heading back to the apparatus. "If you gentlemen would care to nap a while, I'll get this done in as few hours as possible."
"Wait a minute." Degren's face was a stone mask. Just set the thing to a little higher plane. It's like firing a mis-sighted rifle, you've just gotta adjust."
"Are you talking out of my side of your mouth, bud?" Decker stared at his friend. "Things just get curioser all the time, don't they?"
Tut shook his head vigorously. "No, no, the risks are too great. That much error over the time, distance, and singularity flux factors could put you at the core of a planet, or in orbit. I need to work these bugs out."
"Okay, wake us up in three hours no matter what, Tut," Decker demanded. "Whatever shape that thing is in, we'll need to roll the dice and go for it. Look around, professor! The walls are barely walls anymore!" Decker was right; there was an eerie, wavering blue-green glow to everything, just at the edge of perception.
"Oh, my!" Tut was horrified. "Perhaps you'd better not sleep after all. I'll just make a few quick tweaks and we'll make our next test."
Tut's hands were a blur over the control console, then he moved to the apparatus itself, twisting wires, bending tubes, shining odd lights in dark crevices, almost seeming to play the device like a musical instrument. Degren marveled at the odd grace the turtle-man possessed, and the bliss-filled look on his face. This was a maestro of science, he thought. There were odd movie scenes playing in the background of Degren's mind; images from films Decker had seen as a young man; mad scientists amid wild arrays of tubes and wires, dials and levers. None of these crazed-looking, babbling, white-frock-ed posers could begin to rise to Tut's level.
Suddenly, the graceful dance stopped. "Very well, it is time for the next test. We'll try sending a bag of chips again, and if we are successful, one of us will have to be the subject of a similar transport."
The bag went over perfectly. Decker, quivering from head to toe, volunteered to go, and the experiment went off without a hitch. Tut, after giving the apparatus a thorough going-over, aligned the video screen on the House Thure, Aida's ancestral home on Cradsell 4. "Now, my friends, for the real test. Someone has to test the inter-spatial efficacy of my apparatus. The trip may as well serve a dual purpose; I will make a brief visit to my darling Aida. I will align the coordinates and one of you will engage the red button. When you see me on the screen, you will know I've made it. Then you must watch the screen until I return to the exact spot I arrived at, and push the button again. If everything goes according to calculations, I will again appear in the center of the apparatus. Now, I'll just be a moment." He twiddled the power levers and the magnification slide until he was satisfied, then carefully clambered onto the tables, placing himself on the clear disc and orienting himself to face the console. "Ready," was all he said. Decker pressed the button.
A much larger "pop" and "whoosh" ensued, the draft of which jiggled some of the less rigid aspects of the apparatus. Decker glared at the machine nervously.
"Decker, look!" Degren pointed to the screen. "It worked! Tut is there!"
Both men raised their hands over their heads and danced from toe to toe. "Holy triple shit!" reverberated simultaneously from their mouths, then they watched Tut toddle off toward the randomly configured manse.
"I wonder if there's anything like a beer in these, er coolers," Decker said. "Deg, you watch the screen while I do a little on my own, er, research. I'll relay the results of my investigations momentarily." He wandered up and down the aisles of the storeroom, opening doors and drawers, until he found a blue-labeled cabinet containing a rack of what looked invitingly like wine bottles. The cabinet door had a hook on the inside, where there was hung a device not at all unlike a corkscrew. "Aha!" he cried, taking the corkscrew in his teeth and grabbing a likely bottle in either hand before head-butting the cabinet door shut. "Methinks, brother Degren, that we might celebrate just a smidge."
"Perhaps we'll wait just a bit," Degren replied, "Tut is returning, and he has Aida with him."
They watched Tut take Aida to the spot where he appeared, then give the "thumbs up" signal. Degren pressed the button and Aida flashed into the center of the apparatus, stunned and flapping.
"Aida, STOP!" Decker waved to her. "Aida, STOP FLAPPING OR YOU'LL BREAK THE MACHINE!"
She did, and luckily nothing seemed to have been disturbed. The two men helped her out of the circle as she expressed her surprise at seeing them, and her gratitude for their assistance. She continued chattering, but Degren spotted Tut on the view screen, waving frantically; the scene behind him was one of utter chaos as the house began shifting shape, the trees grew and shrunk, the gardens morphed, bloomed, un-bloomed, died, resurrected themselves in rapid succession. Tut somehow remained centered in the screen, but Degren could tell he was having trouble staying there. He pushed the button.
Tut obviously had come a little off his mark. When he appeared on the tables, he was off-center to their right, and the edge of his shell brushed against one of the pulsing towers of the apparatus. It teetered, but Tut seemed paralyzed. Decker rushed to prop it up, barely grabbing it in time, carefully standing it back on its spot.
Tut still hadn't moved. Behind his big, thick glasses, he looked dazed and unfocused. His shell still touched the nearly-stricken tower. Decker reached up to grab his hand, try to lead him out of the circle. When his fingers contacted the leathery wrist, Tut began jerking and whooping like a fence-zapped ostrich. His arms flew out, he spun, twitching and flapping; every twitch took out another segment of the apparatus. Parts went crashing off the table and onto the floor. Decker and Degren rushed about madly, trying to rescue the glowing, tumbling towers as sparks flew and shards tinkled. Tut's eyes suddenly came clear and he looked around just as the last tower fell, then his knees went limp and he followed suit.

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