From Chapter One, THE PORTAL:
“Mr. Brilly … do we have confirmation yet?”
Admiral Slout Epydidimus had just returned to the command bridge and was seated in his captain’s chair onboard the Naustie flagship Anarchy. This had been specially made for him after the former freighter had been captured following the riot at New Australia Planetary Prison. Originally designed for humans – and with Admiral Snout being a pig-like Suidonji – it had to be altered to accommodate his form. He was addressing Ensign Frilbriliram who had been awaiting word as to whether the ship’s science officer had given the green light.
His science team had been working nonstop for the past twenty hours. They’d studied the area and discovered conditions were right for the existence of a wormhole, a space anomaly that most considered theoretical at best. The idea of actually travelling through one had been routinely dismissed over the centuries. The concept of a ‘space portal’ was an old one; and to ship captains more legend than reality. A thousand years ago wormholes had been proposed by a revered scientist back on Earth. That being said, few outside the literary community ever imagined one being traversed.
Not knowing how far behind their pursuers were; not to mention whether the enemy were gaining on them, the only option seemed to be in taking a detour, even though they’d taken one already and it had cost them. Landing on Kapteyn B had been necessary of course. They’d had to offload female prisoners from the Chengshi. Jettisoning them into space was not something Admiral Slout was willing to do. Changing direction wouldn’t cut it – they were being tracked and had been for quite some time. Once within firing range they’d be obliterated. It was preferable to find some way to conceal their location for a time. Disappearing inside of a wormhole – at least to Admiral Slout and his command staff – sounded immensely appealing. Not that Minggatu didn’t have a point.
True, the ship’s spectrometer had picked up on the anomaly; but that shouldn’t have seemed unusual. They’d been running for their lives for some time now; had activated their warheads in order to provide extra speed – thus setting up a harmonic field which caused a subspace field to be generated. This had illuminated a corridor and the spectrometer had identified a passage parallel to the ship. Minggatu, a soft-spoken Mongolian, tried explaining this when it had first occurred. Admiral Slout only heard what he wanted to hear; especially when his first officer alerted him to the opportunity. Did they have the technology to “open the door” and thus “disappear” entirely? That’s all he’d wanted to know. If successful – if they truly could burrow through the fabric of space and survive to the other side – the Interplanetary Fleet would have no idea where they’d gone. Minggatu thought it to be foolhardy.
“Admiral, you need to realize – or do you already know just how risky this would be? We won’t have any idea what’s on the other side. Even if we can force it open … even if we do manage to keep it open long enough to pass through. You know this, right?” That’s how he’d explained himself – trying not to be insubordinate, yet being as honest as he possibly could.
“A wormhole, just so we’re understanding each other, they’re only theoretical – a passage through space-time that supposedly creates a shortcut between two points in the universe. Yes, they’re predicted by the theory of general relativity but nothing more. Predicted; not verified. And according to Einstein-Rosen theory there is serious danger of collapse, not to mention high radiation.”
Slout did not interrupt. He’d learned when it came to subordinates expressing expert opinions that it was wiser to let them speak their minds. If they rattled on long enough they’d often end up talking themselves into whatever was proposed. That was always best. Minggatu had plenty to say.
“The first problem is size, sir. You see, primordial wormholes are predicted to exist on microscopic levels – centimeters wide at the most. Sure, as the universe has evolved, it is possible – remotely possible mind you – that some may have grown. The universe is constantly expanding. But the main issue is stability. Even Einstein himself never considered them as a means of traveling from one galaxy to another because they collapse quickly. That is, we believe they do.”
But that’s where Slout had him. It was merely a matter of making the argument that the Anarchy’s warp drive was predicated on the creation of non-baryonic matter. He too knew a thing or two about interstellar travel. Had to. He’d been a ship’s captain for many years; was a smuggler before he was sent to prison. Offered a “deal” if he’d identify the mobsters he was working for, he’d wisely chosen ten years at New Australia Planetary Prison rather than cooperating with investigators. If only he would have, he might have gotten off with a suspended sentence but Slout was too smart. The mob would have killed him for doing something like that.
“Yes,” the admiral replied, pretending to be ill-informed. “I’ve heard of this. We would need some form of exotic matter, I believe it’s called, in order to hold it open long enough for us to pass through.”
“That’s right, Admiral. You were told correctly,” Minggatu observed. “And it’s not clear whether such a thing exists in great enough quantity within the natural realm. True, it could work in keeping the portal open while traversing one end to the other, but ….”
“But what?” said the ship captain. He could sense that his science officer knew the answer. The trick was in getting him to admit it.
“Well, sir, it’s just that such matter … exotic matter … has only been discovered while in certain vacuum states as part of quantum theory. Those experiments are – I mean they’ve only been conducted in a controlled laboratory environment.”
Slout decided it was time to turn the screws. What had always been believed – though never attempted in space – was that exotic matter contained negative energy density and large negative pressure. If it could be “created” in a lab, why couldn’t it be done now using the same technology they already had onboard?
“I see. And do we not have a laboratory onboard this ship?” asked Slout. “Do we not already have the necessary facilities to accomplish this?”
“Accomplish what, Admiral?” asked Minggatu; being extra careful not to sound flippant. The ship’s commander wasn’t just his superior officer; he was also a massive Suidonji, fully capable of snapping the man’s neck if he wanted to. Still, he could sense what his commander was driving at and it made him terribly uneasy. Slout, for his part, was done playing cat and mouse with the disgraced former college professor. What the little fellow really needed was to see the bigger picture; and Slout was happy to enlighten him. After a pause he stood up from the small table they were seated at and snorted menacingly, placing his front hooves on the surface and glaring at him.
“Perhaps it is me who should be doing the explaining. We’re being chased, Minggatu … and by a force fully capable of not only destroying us but everyone – every living soul on New Australia. It is what it is, but you need to understand just what’s at stake here. We’ve been running from the IPF for quite some time – and to be honest, we may never see our home planet again. But if we can elude them long enough, who knows what could happen? All we know is that we’re alive today … and you, my friend, can see to it we’re still that way tomorrow.”
He then grinned his typical grin – it looked more like a smirk. Not well-known for his humor he raised a thick eyebrow and waited for the science officer’s response. Like any good leader he knew when he’d made his point; what’s more he knew when to stop talking and let his subordinate process what had been said. Say too much and it allowed time for devising a comeback. Say just enough – make it clear what was required of the man – that’s all he wished to do. Either way it was a direct order he was giving; whether implied or stated.
“Figure it out,” he added, in order to remove all doubt what he was demanding. This he did while raising up and placing his hooves on his hips. Minggatu realized this meant it was the end of the meeting. Slout was done with him for now. He’d either produce the results they needed in order to escape through the wormhole or die right along with the rest of his fellow crewmen. Might be days – weeks – hours later once the Interplanetary Fleet caught up with them; but they would.
“Yes Admiral,” was all he said in reply.
Moments later, the lights went out and they were standing in total darkness.
Sarah felt her head begin to swim, pulling her mind away from reality, until she slowly found herself back, face to face, with the nightmare of the caves.
The barn owls emerged from the blackness, swooping down over her as she lay helpless and rigid on the floor. Her body was one giant, pulsating heart. She was letting go and could not tell where the owls were coming from, whether from her mind, out of the cave of Lizard’s Foot, or out of the dark corners of the basement.
She felt the gentle tug of sanity leaving her body with each exhale and floating through the air before her. She was well beyond the point of caring. In fact, she felt like embracing it. Beyond the syncopated rhythm of blood pumping and wings beating, she could hear Lucas’s voice calling her name softly, as if through the wall of another room.
“Sarah… Sarah! What are you doing?”
Lucas’s voice grew louder and started to pull Sarah out of her hallucination-fueled daydream. She was now realizing that this was in fact a daydream. She had not experienced any visions for a while now, as she had not taken any Balixa in over a week.
“Sarah, please get up. I know you’re scared, but we’ll find a way out of here. I promise.”
Lucas’s voice was delicate and filled with promises, sweet sounding to Sarah’s ears; a pleasant addition to Sarah’s daydream, nothing more. She did not want to leave, though she could now feel her head resting in his lap, his hand gently stroking her hair, pulling her further and further out of the vision.
And then she felt something, much more uncomfortable: the pain in her chest, the familiar aching that had driven her here, looking for her father. Now all she wanted was to escape, to not feel the pain that had persisted all these years. She closed her eyes and began to drift off again.
“Sarah, no,” Lucas pleaded, now an irritating reminder of the outside world she was growing to hate. “Sarah please, I need you. Don’t check out again.”
Planet Deneva and the E.V.A.IN.E. World Foundation Period
The coming and establishing of the E.V.A.IN.E. ancestral ghosts were required instruction for the younger inhabitant’s education on Deneva. An instructional teacher of the rich history on the world of Deneva stood before her classroom. Not someone identical to you and I but recognizable in the sense of the word. She was an artifice. An exceptional mix of working parts that required little if no replacement except for the intrusion of unexpected trauma. True enough she was lifelike but behind her white eyes and underneath her artificial skin was a mechanical wonder. She asked her children of which she was assigned if they would set aside for now their basic framework of mathematical formula rationalization for their analytical historical studies. Sharing the room with their teacher was a teaching artificial intelligence helping and moving about the students. The children were far away in thought and had been for most of the morning with only the reward of solutions confirmed by the A.I. to problems to excite them. Her voice had taken them unaware being in deep concentration with the logic required for intricate problem solving in their studies. She would re-enforce their efforts with an example of pleasure explained in the Great Guardian’s philosophy to sustain them in the ongoing race of their mandatory indoctrination. Their education adhered to a rigid prescribe allotted time for comprehending and must be fully attained by the sessions demands so that they could continue to achieve the knowledge for the role of Denevan explorer. For her to have said so had made them glad to relax for a short spell in what was left to the day. Looking over her students of mostly girls to boys, roughly two thirds to one third respectively, she was proud of their efforts this morning and so wished to excite them with a reward. She asked them if they could recall where in their civilizations history did the place of redemption point to next.
What the children had been shown so far, in relation to the creators place with them in the world of Deneva’s past, was mostly preparation he had dictated to himself in his scientific studies and research. Now the fruition of his efforts would be revealed as closely as possible along the timeline it had occurred in and projected like a living story there in the classroom.
The girls devoutly raised their hands to be called upon and the boys leaned gregariously nearly coming out of their seats and spoke out quick without being felt to be under formal permission to wait. With brief acknowledgements to each face, the teacher had meant to be understood only rhetorically, but was delighted they were enthusiastic about their home world’s deep past and its state of steady recovery. For although their worlds last catastrophe had been passed by now for many generations, the history of it still had a way of affecting even the newest of their population. To placate as well as encourage their curiosity she now asked them more specifically if they would like to investigate once more the archival histories. There had been no need to ask. Seeing their happiness to explore the histories, she had with deliberateness set aside for the remainder of the day the regimentation of their mathematical education before class would be suspended till tomorrow. All of their visual and mechanical aids were retrieved into the cavities on their individual desks. The soft form seats they occupied were adjusted and the working desks removed themselves being only holograms of teachable aids. Their level of completion to the list of formulas was recorded before being sealed by the authority instructing them. The teacher felt their sense of exploring returning to the past and set in motion the participation of the assisting android to access the last waypoint the class had entered from its internal archival library.