Thursday, May 13, 2010

Decker #25

Aida and Coxli, brought together by their shared disinterest in the technical aspects of Tut's explanations, occupied a small table strategically placed at the greatest distance from Tut's work station and conversed over a light lunch that she had brought back from the cafeteria.
"The device, described in the instructions as a chronospace projector, is designed to operate in a stable space/time matrix," Tut said. "With the level of flux as it is, I'd strongly caution against using any of its features other than surveillance."
"But we could bring Furge back with it, right?" Decker eyed the open case hopefully.
"Under ideal circumstances, I would postulate it had that capacity. I am somewhat dubious that it will even serve its virtual functions within the parameters of the current disturbance. Additionally, it draws a rather significant quantity of energy for even its simplest operations. With the additional strain on both the projector and our generation capacity, I am less than hopeful regarding our ultimate success."
"So you're saying it's risky."
"That is one potential permutation of what I am saying."
"There seems to be little to lose," Degren said, "and a lot to gain. Bringing Furge back and returning us all to our proper places could go a ways toward healing this rift, don't you think?"
Tut sighed. "It's impossible to speculate as to the cause or effect of our current situation without significantly more information. It is much more likely that your displacement was a minor side effect of some greater disturbance."
"Well, let's investigate, then!" Decker pointed at the machine. "Get that thing fired up and we'll go on a fact-finding mission or three. In the process of investigation, we'll look for Furge."
"If it's all the same to you guys," Coxli said, "I'll stay here and take notes. My dear mother, rest her soul, told me I was allergic to chronospace projection. I'm not ready to find out if I've outgrown my sensitivity."
"As far as I can tell, no one will be doing any actual traveling when we engage the initial function of the projector," Tut said. "According to what I've been able to discern from the instructions, the subjects find themselves surrounded by a complete sensory virtuality of the target event sequence. The subjects never actually leave their origin modality. So, if the projector is operating optimally, there will be little risk. However, given the overlap we are experiencing, it's difficult to hypothesize as to what mode of reality will be represented within its field."
"Sounds sketchy to me," Coxli shrugged, "so if it's all the same to you...."
"Yeah, yeah." Decker shot the lizard-man an impatient glare, then turned to Tut. "Let's get this show on the road, Professor!"
"Very well." Tut pulled a pair of gossamer-thin, almost invisible suits out of the case and handed one to Decker and one to Degren. "Put these on. They are designed to form-fit to most known sentient somatypes. They provide a locus for the chronospace projector, as well as generating a simulacrum of the target events for the wearer. In the actual travel mode, they become the vehicle for the subject, able to transceive energy from the projector and real-time data from the subject's current locus. As long as you are in the surveillance mode, you will remain here where we can see you. Should the 'travel' mode be engaged, our only contact with you will be aural. It should be a reciprocal link."
"So we'd be able to talk with you, but that's all."
"Yes. Should we decide to use the 'travel' function, I'll send a few recording devices with you so that we aren't only relying on your perceptions."
"Alright," Decker said, "let's give it a go."
"I'll start with a locus that's familiar to all of us," Tut said. "Target A: House Thure on Cradsell 4. Let's see, spectrum blue, phase shift at the seventeenth harmonic factor...yes, that should approximate the locus.....ready, gentlemen?"
The two men gave the thumbs-up.
"...and off you go!"
Suddenly, Degren felt a breeze and the warmth of the sun on his face. The random angles of House Thure loomed before him, seemingly returned to normalcy since the last time he'd seen it on the screen of Tut's hastily-assembled, now-defunct time/space contraption. He thought he caught a glimpse of Aida in one of the house's upper windows; he blinked and shook his head, knowing she'd come through the old device with Tut. When he looked back up, she was gone.
The water of the pond seemed to be boiling as it overflowed its boundaries. It cascaded across terraces, spreading down the hillside as he pond welled, impossibly mushroom-like, above its stone boundaries, seeming to defy gravity. There was a sort of slow-motion feel to things as he followed Decker toward the side door of the house. He sensed that Decker, too, had glimpsed Aida in the upstairs window, and was going to investigate.
Tut's voice rang from nowhere in his ears. "What do you see, gentlemen?"
"Thought I saw Aida in the house," Decker said. "Going to check it out."
"I'm not certain how the projector will handle your change in elevation," Tut cautioned, "Kindly attempt to keep up a running dialogue so that we can monitor your situation. For some reason, you are not visible to us at this time."
"OK. Degren, maybe we should stick together, huh? Seems like they always split up in the stories to cover more ground, and it's always a bad idea."
"Will do. Who's going to be the jabberer first?"
"You asked, you got it. Remember which stairs led to Aida's room?"
"Nope. Never came in or out this door, either. And things look different in here anyway. More halls."
"More halls?" Tut sounded perplexed. What do you mean?"
"I mean more halls," Degren said, "like you could go a bunch more different ways at every turn now than the last time we were here. It seemed weird then how there were no right angles, but now it's like, I dunno, four-dimensional."
"Disturbing," Tut muttered. "Four dimensional tessellation? Tesseract effect? I don't like it, gentlemen. Perhaps you should return to the projection site."
Degren glanced out a window toward the pond. "I don't think that's going to be possible, Tut, unless our projections can walk on water. The spot we started from looks pretty flooded."
"Flooded? What?"
"Yeah, the pond is acting weird, overflowed its walls like a floppy souffle. Getting pretty crazy out there. Water is turning kind of glow-y turquoise, blopping around like slow-motion gelatine."
"Water! It's not just the river anymore!" Tut was in a panic. "The river has suffused into the normal water supply on Cradsell 4! Things are decaying faster than I had anticipated. Gentlemen, I am going to bring you back now."
"Wait!" Decker raced down a narrow corridor, with Degren hot on his heels. "That's Aida's room right over there. She was here, Tut. This won't take long."
"Decker, the paradox effect..."
"Just a sec, Tut!" He swung the door open, and there she was. "Aida! Quick, come with me!"
"Do I know you, sir? What are you doing in my-"
"No time!" He pulled open his suit, stretching it as far as he could from his body, and dived over the flustered duck. "Okay, Tut, bring us back!"
"I'll try, Decker, but there seems to be an extra strain on the projector. Perhaps due to your spatial displacement. Engaging parallax"
The twisted Medieval lines of House Thure wavered and faded, and Degren found himself standing on the comfortingly solid floor of the hyperbaric chamber. Decker was sprawled on top of the vigorously protesting Aida, who calmed as she caught a glimpse of Tut.
"My dear Tut, you look so old! What in the seven moons is going on? Who are these men, and where are we?"
"This is highly irregular," Tut said. "The projector was definitely in surveillance mode, but..."
"But we were really there, weren't we, Tut?" Decker extricated himself from the suit and the duck, stood in front of the befuddled turtle. "The projector's fucking up, isn't it? Shit shit shit SHIT!"
"Perhaps it's not the projector, Deg-er, Deck...ummmmm-mm? Well, I suppose it doesn't matter. I'll call both of you Deckren. Anyway, I wonder if the barriers between realities are attenuated enough so that the projector no longer has a capacity to merely survey. This may ultimately make our task easier, though perhaps more dangerous. Of course, we merely engage in speculation at this point. I'll study the manual further."
"Tut, do you think we have time for caution? Let's keep this ball rolling, or we'll run out of time."
"Darling, you haven't answered me," Aida number two whined. What's going on here? And who is that other duck?"

Friday, May 7, 2010

Decker #24

The coat was pale blue silk, perfectly tailored to his now-gaunt form. The pants, also silk, were bone-white. His sand-colored huaraches were Italian-made, and caressed his feet as he strolled through the bustling casino, martini in hand. He noted the way the floor staff watched him; watched his drink to ensure it was never empty, watched his movements at the blackjack and roulette tables. He was a "high roller" in this casino, and in most of the other casinos on the Strip. Everywhere he went in Las Vegas, he was treated like visiting royalty.
He barely remembered how he'd gotten here, only that it was toward the end of a long debauch; cocaine lifted the alcohol's haze, and a stiff drink took the paranoid edge off the coke. A blur of motel rooms and torrid rendezvous, each more opulent than the last, had drawn him to "Sin City" along a crooked line from the Arizona desert where his memories began. It seemed as though fortune must favor him; he'd started off destitute and ill-versed in the system of exchange that these people used, but at every turn a new boon would fall on him. The jaded blonde time-share sales woman who'd picked him up on the roadside in her tall, rectangular vehicle (she'd called it an SUV, he'd since learned what that was) and offered him money to be her companion for the night, and taught him what this "money" was; the two floozies who'd come to sit at his table at the diner where the blonde had left him, who'd spent the next night in a seedy room with him, "teaching" him about sex, and next morning talked him into spending all his money on scratch-off tickets, then left him with one un-scratched ticket (it had been a ten thousand dollar winner, but they were long-gone by then); Brian, the trucker who'd befriended him and taken him into Scottsdale to get him some decent clothes and a shower; by the time he'd found himself in Las Vegas, he had a bank account that would have supported him in luxury for the rest of his life.
The days and nights of a high roller were very entertaining, he'd learned, especially when it didn't seem as though he ever lost. As he learned more about the games of chance that treated him so well, he'd begun to wonder where his luck could be coming from. Though the casinos scrutinized his every move, there was never so much as a hint that he might be cheating them, so they let him play. Through the advice of various other gamblers, he'd learned to "spread it around", going from one casino to another, only staying long enough to pocket ten thousand or so from each.
He'd developed a reputation along the Strip; there were always hangers-on who'd watch him carefully, looking for his "system", and no shortage of beautiful women willing to ply him with their "assets" to let them in on his "secret". He'd gotten to the point where he didn't even care to know it himself. As long as the money, the drugs, the drinks and the women kept coming like iron to a magnet, he'd ride the tide.
He'd called himself Decker Quall, for the purpose of opening a bank account and such things. Some papers and plastic cards he'd found among the clothing and detritus in the caved-in Arizona shack he'd woken up outside of had that name on them, written in a language that seemed unfamiliar but that he could somehow comprehend, and other information that he'd later learned was important to surviving in this land. Brian had taught him how to use the information. Now it seemed that, every time he looked at the little rectangle of plastic on which Decker's name and address were embossed, the image of the man the card had belonged to came to resemble him more and more.
Sometimes he'd have dreams in which he was someone else entirely, living in a totally different world. He'd always wake up in a cold sweat. In that other world, there were no casinos, no endless stream of attractive women ready to do his bidding, no raucous, glorious nights full of flashing lights and alcohol. Just a sparse desert with nothing to do but look for food, pray, and make love to...another man? He was repulsed at the idea, but it somehow pulled at him, too. It was a frightening idea, much like standing on a cliff edge and wondering what it would be like to....just leap. He vowed he'd never try it, and when such thoughts breached his consciousness, he shoved them frantically back into the depths. He'd occasionally been approached by other men, and at first he'd tried to be polite in declining them, but recently he'd started unleashing scorn and vitriol on those who offered such affront.
Here in the heart of organized chance, there were very few manifestations of the strange occurrences that were happening elsewhere. He was not one to listen to the news, but he'd catch an occasional snippet when he was riding in someone else's car; outside of Las Vegas, the laws of physics seemed to be unraveling and becoming fluid. Even here, every now and again, out of the corner of his eye, he'd see something coming out of nowhere that obviously didn't belong there. Well, no big deal, as people here liked to say. As long as he could keep on partying, he'd play "Decker Quall", and nothing was going to stop him. This, he thought, is the life!