ParaShift2: Interlude + 01

Where to find Chapters 1-20? They’ve been published in book form as “Paradigm Shift” by Harper Kingsley.

Available at Amazon as kindle and paperback, and everywhere else (Smashwords, Walmart, Overdrive, Scribd) as ebook.

If you buy a copy, your money goes toward keeping me alive. So thanks for that.

Enjoy…

INTERLUDE

“Readings are holding steady, Dr. Fowler. We’re ready to begin the test.”

Egan pushed his glasses up his nose and gave the young astrophysicist a tired smile. “Well then, we shouldn’t keep them waiting much longer, should we?” He stood and picked the tablet computer off his desk. His back made an unpleasant popping and cracking sound when he twisted his shoulders, and he sighed at the relief of tension. They’d all been cooped up in the lab for too long. He hadn’t directly seen the sun in over two weeks.

The base had been cut out of the side of a mountain and was reached through a 10-mile-long tunnel bored through the rock. Since the beginning of the Janus Project, nobody had been allowed in or out of the mountain and wouldn’t be until the experiment was complete. They were all beginning to feel a bit of cabin fever, though none of his scientists would ever sacrifice such an amazing opportunity by asking to leave early.

He made a mental note to have the infirmary hand out extra vitamin supplements. The last thing they needed was to have someone suffer a meltdown when everyone was in such close quarters. He still remembered the drama of the Antarctica expedition, when Carruthers put everyone on edge with his Hannibal obsession and 10-hour marathon of cannibal movies. Nobody had slept comfortably around him after that.

Striding purposefully toward the heavily armored test chamber, Egan forced the last tiredness from his mind and put his game face on. This was to be their fourth test of the machine and with the additional scanners there was hope they were going to collect some useful results.

With the amount of money the government had poured into their project, they needed some conclusive results. They’d been pulling all-nighters to make it happen. And now he was about to see the culmination of their hard work.

Entering the observation room overlooking Testing Chamber Alpha, Egan nodded greetings to his colleagues. Other than Dr. Olga Olemsky–who always appeared well put together–they looked as exhausted and exhilarated as he felt.

They were making history here. Their names would appear in the books as the first people to contact another universe. They were all excited to know what was out there.

Egan seated himself at his workstation and nodded toward Dr. Therese Yang to get things started. They were working on a precise timeline of activating the machine every 48-hours for steadily increasing increments.

Last time they’d kept the machine on for 5 seconds. This time they were breaking double-digits and were aiming for 10 seconds.

The military had been very hush-hush about the provenance of the machine and Egan hadn’t been willing to lose this research opportunity by asking questions.

He’d wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up. He’d wanted to explore alien worlds and travel across the stars mapping new galaxies. But one bad weekend… One exposure… And his spaceman dreams died when he was 22-years old.

There was a big black stripe across the bottom of his every record and piece of identification. He was a member of a dangerous minority, his very potent blood something both feared and coveted by the humans around him. It was a wonder he’d been invited to join Project Janus, much less as a supervisor. If his stripe had been red, he wouldn’t have been allowed within a thousand feet of this place.

“We’re ready,” Dr. Shandri Tadum announced. Her finger hovered over her mouse button. “On your mark, Dr. Fowler.”

Egan glanced at the digital display on the wall counting down. 22. 21. 20. 19…

He licked his lips and wished he’d taken a drink of water. He didn’t want the historical records to include his voice croaking and fading out because of a dry throat.

He swallowed. 12. 11. “Ten. Nine. Eight.” So dry. Here was this amazing moment and his tongue felt like a dry towel in his mouth. “Seven. Six. Five. Four.” Here we go. “Three. Two. Mark.”

Shandri clicked her mouse. In Testing Chamber Alpha, the machine was activated by the AI-driven waldos attached to the walls.

There was a mechanical hum that started in the air and vibrated against every surface, flat or curved. Fu-fu-fff-fuuff. It built and built, until even protected within the observation room, Egan could feel it in his bones. He had to consciously unclench his jaw as his teeth tried to rattle in his head.

The hum built and built until something had to give.

CRACK!

The air itself split open and light shot out in strings of white and blue, so bright only the protective glass kept Egan’s team from being permanently blinded. More and more stings, crisscrossing and weaving an ovaloid of solid light that began to twist and spin faster and faster until heat built and became energy for the machine to create a stable portal.

There was a POP! and the air in Testing Chamber Alpha rushed into the suddenly open hole in spacetime.

12 feet across by 12 feet high, the opening was mere inches in front of its power source, but that square of inky blackness swallowed all light. The chambe became shadowed and dim, the emergency lights struggling to compensate.

“Okay,” Egan said, then cleared his throat before continuing. “Okay. Make sure those sequencers keep running.” They’d begun hardening all electronics after the second portal opening had rendered their very expensive machinery into so-much garbage. The three-star general in charge of their budget hadn’t been amused.

“Frequencies are stabilizing,” Dr. Amador Ortiz announced. He was the youngest PhD in the room, and even through the mask of professionalism his excitement shone. His fingers were steady and quick on his keyboard as he controlled the machine’s energy output. “Ready for destination code.”

Egan eyed the black void that was the active-yet-unopened portal and took a shaky breath. Here’s one for the history books. “Do it.”

Amador did it.

The portal opened like some kind of eye of Sauron, a sideways slit of roiling blue-white fire that was also a trail of stars journeyed so quickly as to be a blur.

If Egan squinted, he almost thought he could catch lines of demarcation, though they came and went so fast he couldn’t decide the shape of anything.

To stare too long was to invite nausea, but he couldn’t force himself to look away. He heard one or two of his colleagues gag quietly, but he didn’t have the attention to spare them more than a “Don’t puke on the equipment.”

The “eye” of the portal steadied and locked on the programmed destination and began to expand. It was like gazing into water: white edged blue darkened bluer and bluer until the portal was a rich azure. It was like a floating gem, beautiful yet frightening. It was so many things.

Egan was terrified, though he wasn’t sure if it was fear of failure or fear of what lay beyond the portal. All he wanted was to know.

“Signal is locked,” Amador announced. “Focusing on tightening the beam.”

Egan glanced at the wall monitors to verify the stability of the power source. It was spinning effortlessly in the air behind the portal. Two cameras caught a view of the space in-between, where blazing light touched the swallowing darkness and disappeared into it.

“How’s the power flow looking?” he asked.

“Steady,” Olga answered. “That last upgrade got rid of that hum we’ve been fighting. It’s green across the boards. The last warning light is gone.”

“Good,” Egan said. They’d been fighting that ghost hum with no clear answers until Glasser had come up with the idea of using a diamond lens for the anterior particle accelerator module.

He would have loved to see this, Egan thought, before brushing aside the wistfulness of his now-dead friend. The testing chamber had failed two Turn Ons ago; Leo Glasser had been atomized. He was gone-gone.

The only thing Glasser had left behind was his name for the history books. It was up to Egan to make sure those books got published.

“Open the gate,” he ordered.

“Opening.”

The bone-deep vibrations were raising the hairs on his arms. He could feel the oddness in his bladder and he clenched to keep from urinating. He could feel it in his teeth, every filling letting itself be known. A taste was building on his tongue, a copper sweetness that grew and grew until it was a struggle to breathe past it.

With a snap-CRACK! the gate opened. Using the portal–the invisible “glass” through which they peered into that other world–as a focus lens, they now punched a hole through the fabric of reality. On the other side, there were mysteries unplundered. But for now, they were only going to take a little sample. Hopefully the first of many.

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

The morning dawned bright and clear. Gregor Tierney squinted and burrowed under the bedclothes until only a tuft of dark hair poked out. He frowned when his questing hand found a cold spot where Park had been sleeping.

Should I get up and look for him? he thought, already knowing the answer. Nope. He’s a big boy. He can take care of himself.

Magister Dylan Park was a well-trained killing machine. Given his rank, he was more than capable of handling himself in any given situation.

A well-satisfied Gregor was not going to borrow worry. Not least because the bed was comfortable and warm and seemed to perfectly enclose his body in all the right ways.

TBC…