The following sci-fi short story and sequel to 201.824 was written when I was a college junior.
Prime Scientor Dralla Meckle leaned back in her favorite chair and sighed audibly. Through the wide window of her rather disorganized office, she surveyed the nighttime cityscape in a momentary escape from the crisis that so abruptly fell upon her shoulders.
Just three decidays ago, a meeting with the Prime Administrator of the United Regions, other top Administrators, and the Prime Militor, to discuss possible solutions, had concluded. With less desirable alternatives as possible backup plans, the primary solution to send a message into the near past was chosen. She herself had suggested the solution, for it avoided counter-destruction, and she alone would be involved in, and responsible for, its execution.
Her breakthrough in transmaterialization technology had made this solution possible and favored. However, the tremendous energy required for each temporal transmatting had limited the number of tests performed. There would be considerable risk in employing a less-than-fully tested time-transmat. But she had to take that risk. The situation demanded it.
Twin full moons hung brightly in the upper corner of the window, their bodies slightly overlapping to create a lopsided figure eight. Balancing the moons in the opposite side of the window, sparkled the magnificent solar column. Virtually invisible in the daytime, the magnetic shield that contained the thermal intensity of the solar column now glittered colorfully as charged particles struck its cylindrical form.
Not unlike an aurora, the Prime Scientor thought, referring to the glitter of the distant column. Beautiful. Between the lunar spheres and the solar column, the semi-reflected image of a seated middle-aged-looking woman gazed back at her. Her red hair, tinged with grey, fell short of her slight shoulders, and her still shapely figure managed to show through her rather loose clothing. I’m not bad myself, Dralla added with a smile.
The smile gradually faded as she continued to contemplate the situation, her situation.
Her time-transmat, modified from the standard transmat, would displace a holographic projection of herself back into the past, when she would give her message. Several technical considerations had to be dealt with in order to achieve this.
First, the temporal displacement would be that of an image rather than of matter — of photons rather than of atoms. Transmatting the Prime Scientor herself was regarded as foolish and unnecessary, despite the higher stability involved in the transmat of matter. Thus, the problem was to reduce the instability of photon transmat.
Second, mid-transmat would be maintained as the message was delivered. Completing the photon transmat would only sever the link to the present; the image would have no energy to draw on and would immediately dissipate. Here, the problem was to override transmat completion long enough for the message delivery.
Third, the simultaneous mid-transmat of an audiovisual device would be maintained. This device, similar to a camera, would enable the Prime Scientor to carry a conversation with the contactees, as if she herself had transmatted into the past. Again, completing the transmat would sever the link to the present, giving rise to the problem of overriding transmat completion.
However, there was the further problem of keeping separate the four electromagnetic transmissions — corresponding to (1) the transmatting holographic image, (2) the transmatting audiovisual device, (3) the supply-energy signal of the device, and (4) the return-audiovisual signal of the device — all within the bridging temporal vortex.
The final problem involved selecting the magnitude of temporal displacement. A point in the past had to be selected such that it provided the search forces the most time in the present, without going too far into the past when the persons to be contacted were too young or too unprepared. This selection depended primarily upon the memory of the Prime Scientor for she alone could determine the relative appropriateness of a point in the past.
These obstacles were quickly and tirelessly overcome within the three decidays since the meeting. The modifications to the transmat were completed. And several minor tests yielded encouraging results.
But what she wanted more than anything now was to get some sleep. Unfortunately, a brief rest in her office had to do. Soon she would attend another meeting, this time as its chief conductor, to provide an updated report of the situation to the less-informed Councillors and Scientors of this Region and other Regions of the planet.
Dralla sighed once more. The bright moons were now separated as the city below continued without concern. The true nature of the crisis would not be revealed to those outside the circle of select Administrators, Militors, and Scientors. It was only appropriate. And as Prime Militor Braden had said, “The smooth operation of the Administration demands such secrecy.”
Suddenly, but not unexpectedly, an electronic tone shattered her thoughts.
“Yes?” the Prime Scientor answered.
“Everyone has arrived,” her aide informed through the comlink. “We’re ready for you.”
“Thank you, Brel. I’ll be there shortly.”
Dralla rose from her chair and swiftly located her personal electrotext from under the clutter of plastosheets and other electrotexts. After checking her appearance in a nearby mirror, she shut off the office lights with the press of a button. And entering into the wide top-floor corridor of the Complex tower, she strode towards the elevator as calmly as she could.
* * *
“No, no, no, dammit!” burst Drason Meckle, as his clenched fist hit the polished black surface of his table. “Again, you’re assuming that reintegration occurs simultaneously throughout the organism. The differences in cellular complexity are not always negligible. The reintegration period and thus target instability increase, the more complex–”
“Aha!” snapped Apolla Pomaris, pacing to and fro within their well-equipped laboratory. “But in this case, we can assume it. The plant life we’re dealing, possesses a rather homogeneous cellular structure. Besides, demand for accuracy in this experiment is not as high as it would be for, let’s say, a human being, where the range and levels of complexity are much more extreme.”
“Perhaps,” Drason softened, as his dark eyes continued their gaze upon the slender form of his fellow colleague and live-in lover. “But, Apple, I still think you’re dismissing the apparent differences too easily.”
“Maybe I’ll listen when you stop being such a– oh, never mind.”
Drason broke into a smile. “Oooh, you’re fresh today.”
“Yep, that’s what I am, a fresh Apple.”
“Not again,” Drason sighed. The first few times had been amusing. But the pun was now ancient. Then again, perhaps he shouldn’t have brought it up in the first place.
Apolla returned her own sigh. “Sorry, Dray. I just couldn’t help myself.”
“Me neither.” Drason took Apolla into his arms, brushed her golden hair aside, and gently kissed her forehead. He looked out the window with her head resting upon his chest, and muttered, “This research is so draining.”
In the comfort of strong arms, Apolla murmured, “I know.”
“Sometimes, I wonder if it’s worth it, if all this will come to anything important.” He pulled away slightly to meet the ever-understanding pair of sparkling blue eyes upon him. “This experiment on instantaneous hybridization. Is bypassing the natural processes of fertilization and germination, et cetera, really worth such–”
“Dray, please. We’ve gone through this before.”
“Well, I’ll go through it again.” Drason let go of Apolla and gestured towards the window, and the square kilometers of sunlit green surrounding the Maxon Laboratory Complex that lay beyond it. “I mean, the question of bypassing Nature emerges once again. When we humans intervene, is the result still Nature?”
He sighed, still amazed at the calming power of those blue eyes. “I’m sor–”
“You don’t have to apologize. I understand. I wonder about this too. But I think I’ve resolved it. I’ve waited for you to reach your own resolution, but I’m not immortal.”
Apolla smiled. Then said, “This is what I do: When I wonder about this, I remind myself that the human mind itself is a product of Nature. Perhaps it is the ultimate product.
“In the past, humanity had chopped down entire species of trees to produce the books essential for the communication of ideas, and in turn, the development of its consciousness. Is it unnatural to learn?”
“But the trees didn’t have to be–”
Apolla anticipated his objection. “Yeah, the trees didn’t have to be consumed for us to learn. But until a more economical material was found, paper was the material of choice. Maybe you can say that those trees sacrificed their lives for our minds — minds that comprehend the Universe more completely.”
Drason added, “And destroy it more completely.”
“Unfortunately. If necessary. But you see what I’m saying?”
“Yeah, I see. Or rather, I hear what you’re saying.” And he turned to Apolla to find her familiar smile. “So maybe the development of our minds, the advancement of our collective consciousness, is part of Nature’s grand scheme.”
“Then our experiment may be a contribution to that advancement.”
“And if I’m contributing to that advancement, ” Drason decided to be clever, “I may be right about your dismissing the cellular differences too easily.”
But Apolla caught him. “Don’t push your luck.”
* * *
“Consider ourselves lucky,” the Prime Scientor said to the audience of highly-respected Scientors and high-ranking Councillors, “that the madman had suffered some memory loss. Or else, he might’ve remembered the Complex security code for that dekaday, and slipped out undetected. Instead, he did recall the code for the arms locker, and blasted his way out killing several in the process. At least, we know he’s out there.”
“Where is he now?” asked one of the Councillors from the far side of the large elliptical table.
Prime Scientor Dralla, from behind the podium, replied, “Unfortunately, we don’t know his precise location. My counterpart, Prime Militor Braden, may help you in this respect. But since he’s too busy to attend, for obvious reasons, I can only say that the madman is probably still in the capitol district.”
“Can you expand upon the reported memory loss?” inquired another Councillor.
“I’ll try to,” Dralla sighed. “Despite the single instance of memory loss reported, the madman seems to retain the knowledge of each of his original sep-parent personalities: Scientor Laris Kimmer and his tru-brother Matis.”
“Biological tru-brothers?” exclaimed a Scientor, “In Fusion?”
“Apparently,” replied Dralla.
“But that’s… disgusting!”
“Perhaps,” answered Dralla. “But their sep-partner preferences are not the issue here. The issue is to save our Region, and perhaps our planet, from disaster.”
She immediately answered the looks of doubt in their faces, and added, “Yes, it is that serious.”
A tense pause filled the spacious room before the Prime Scientor’s top aide and close colleague, Brel Maxon, suggested to her from his nearby chair, “Perhaps if you’d describe some more of the details, then they might better perceive the seriousness of the situation.”
For a moment, Dralla smiled at him. His calmness throughout this crisis reminded her so much of his tru-father Brandon Maxon, founder of the Maxon Laboratory Complex. Or did it remind her of herself?
If only Brandon were here, she thought. But he had Fused with his long-time wife, giving birth to Brenda Maxon. She died 4 kilodays later at the advanced mean-age of 52 kilodays, her heart filled with happiness.
Then Dralla returned to Brandon’s tru-son, and answered, “Oh, uh yes, Brel. Thank you.”
She paused once more, then resumed, “As I had said, the madman Kimmer blasted his way out of the Complex. However, before making it through the exterior wall of the structure, several who were spared heard him cry, “The shield must fall! The sun must be set free!”
“We can only assume that he is referring to the solar column and its magshield. Furthermore, his sep-parent, Scientor Laris Kimmer specialized in particle physics, and served as a top consultant in the development of the solar column system. In particular, he designed its rotating collector.
“As for his other sep-parent, Matis Kimmer, little is known about him. However, the little we do know gives us a clue as to the reasons why the shield must fall and the sun must be set free. Matis was a member of several ecological movements, including the obscure yet radical Examplists, from the word example, which itself is derived from the acronym EXEMPOL — Environmentalists for the eXtermination of Electro-Magnetic POLlution.”
Upon hearing these new details, the majority of the audience murmured with growing anxiety.
Out of the murmur, a Councillor asked, “What do you plan to do about the madman?”
“At this time,” the Prime Scientor replied, “I plan to do nothing… yet. All that can be done now is being done by Prime Militor Braden. That is, to find the madman. We’ve discussed the situation quite thoroughly and we agree that once he is found, he must be terminated. The Prime Administrator herself authorized our decision.”
Another Councillor of advanced mean-age objected, “But you haven’t yet explained how serious the situation is. That the Prime Administrator believes Kimmer must die, gives us a terrifying hint. But exactly what damage can he inflict?”
Prime Scientor Dralla looked directly at the white-haired Councillor and with all the calmness she could collect, responded, “He can deactivate the magshield. Given his combined sep-parent background, there is nothing that tells us he can’t do it. And he intends to do it.”
She turned to Brel, and her top aide acknowledged his readiness with a nod.
She added, “Scientor Brel Maxon will now relate the consequences of such a deactivation. Brel?”
The tall, dark-skinned Scientor took the podium as Dralla took her place in the warm just-vacated chair. “Thank you, Prime Scientor.”
Brel cleared his throat, then began, “Yes, it appears that the madman Kimmer intends to deactivate the magshield. If he does so, that is, if the Prime Militor and his search forces fail to stop him, the solar column would be exposed to the atmosphere. Consequently, the column would act as a lightning bolt, but a bolt with a thermal magnitude several times larger and a surface area several orders of magnitude higher. Beyond the harmless effect of thunder, the resulting air expansion would unleash shock waves equivalent to those generated by a nuclear explosion.”
A disturbing pause filled the room once more.
Brel continued, “But that’s not all. Unlike the lightning bolt, this solar column will not immediately dissipate upon a grounding contact. It wouldn’t dissipate at all. It would unleash shock wave after shock wave indefinitely. First, it would melt through the shattered solar collection system. Next, it would slowly melt through the planet’s crust and upper mantle. Unless–”
The same white-haired Councillor completed, “Unless the secondary satellite mirrors are manipulated to redirect the solar energy away from the focal satellite mirror.”
“I’m impressed,” commented Brel.
“Well, at my old age, even a Councillor can still learn a few things.” He chuckled. “I’ll impress you some more, Scientor.
“Since the secondary mirrors are keyed into the focal mirror, which is in turn keyed into the column base transmitters, they cannot be manipulated independently. That is, unless the focal mirror registers a malfunction. Then the link is automatically deactivated so repairs can be made. Therefore, during such a malfunction, the secondary mirrors can be manipulated to redirect the solar energy.”
The Prime Scientor smiled widely, “Now it’s my turn to be impressed, Councillor. I’m sorry, however, that I don’t recall your name.”
“Lir Rona. A simple name for a likewise simple man.”
“Of course.” She smiled, and her smile faded just as swiftly. “But Councillor Lir, do you perceive a problem in the course of action you’re suggesting?”
Maintaining his gaze at her, the Councillor placed a couple of fingers to his lips in brow-knitted thought. He shook his head.
“Brel?” the Prime Scientor signaled.
“The problem to which she is referring, involves disabling the focal satellite without destroying its continued usefulness. If we decide to follow this course, we must consider the possibility that if we can somehow disable the satellite, it could haphazardly swing the solar column and slash across the entire face of the planet, leaving a burning and boiling path of destruction.”
“Not unlike a hot knife through butter,” Dralla muttered softly but audibly.
“Not to mention,” Brel resumed, “drastic weather disturbances along the path of destruction. In such a situation, the focal mirror satellite would have to be destroyed, not simply disabled.”
From her chair, Dralla continued, “Yes, if the madman deactivates the magshield, we must then immediately destroy the satellites — either the secondaries or the focal — to limit the lightning effects of the column. Yet destroying the secondaries would result in global satellite fallout of unpredictable scatter. And destroying the focal may result in unpredictable column swing as well as unpredictable fallout scatter. In either scenario, we must counter destruction with further destruction. And yet we must not.”
Suddenly, a fist struck the table. “How– how the hell did we get into this mess?” uttered a rather young and frustrated Scientor. “We’re not just talking about this Region, but the entire United Regions, if not the whole damn planet! I’ve only been at the Complex for a few hectodays. I’ve got a wife and two children. How do I tell them that we may soon be crushed by pieces of a falling satellite? Or vaporized by a swinging solar beam? How should I tell them?”
Silence befell the room as eyes looked away from the young man, eyes that shared his fear and frustration, but did not want to be reminded of the uncomfortable view.
Dralla walked over to the young Scientor and rested a gentle hand upon his shoulder. “Prama, I wouldn’t recommend that you tell them. As a Scientor, you were trained in the scientific method, so you understand the utmost discipline that is required. In this case, I’m asking you to rely on a deeper form of discipline. I’m asking you to be strong and to project that strength whatever the news is telling them. Or else panic will engulf all of you.”
Dralla paced around the far end of the table. “As for getting into this mess, I doubt anyone foresaw the possibility of such an impossible threat when the column was designed. It’s rather absurd, isn’t it? A threat by one of its own core designers? A Fused madman? From the Complex itself?
“The benefits of the column are incalculable after nearly 6 kilodays in operation. But with great reward comes the chance of great disaster. And chance has tapped us on our shoulders.”
“So what do you propose to do if Kimmer succeeds?” the young Scientor asked.
Dralla returned to the front of the conference room. “The madman will not succeed. But before I reveal my proposal, I must insist that it not leave this room.”
Her firm gaze met an elliptical mixture of resigned, reluctant, and reassuring nods. She continued, “The only ones outside this room that have already been informed of my proposal are the Prime Administrator, the Second Administrator, and the Prime Militor. We have agreed that the destruction of the focal satellite will be a fall-back plan if my proposal fails. But what I have proposed, will not so desperately depend upon when the madman acts, nor will it involve such fall-back destruction.”
Prime Scientor Dralla paused, then finally revealed, “With my recent developments in transmaterialization technology, I propose to project an image of myself 15 kilodays into the past, in order to instruct my sep-parents… to assassinate the madman’s own sep-parents, Laris and Matis Kimmer.”
* * *
Apolla silently joined Drason in the dimly-lit den, where he sat comfortably in the amply-cushioned sofa watching some holovision.
She held the drink in front of him and he said, “Thanks.”
Adjusting herself in the sofa, Apolla asked, “Anything good on the HV?”
“Not really.” He took a sip of his favorite drink — fruit juice. “I thought I’d see what kind of music kids like these days.” Within the ellipsoid field, brightly-colored lights pulsed as the miniature three-dimensional images of young men and women gyrated to the beat.
“What do you mean?” Apolla protested. “I’d still like to think of ourselves as kids. You’re starting to sound like a grandparent.” She gave a playful shove to her grinning companion.
“Hey,” Drason laughed. “But we are old.”
“Ten kilodays isn’t that old.”
“Perhaps. But can you still do that?” Drason pointed to one of the images in the holographic field. The dancer had lifted her leg to a point where her toes rose above her head.
Apolla giggled, “That? I doubt it.” She slowly turned to her lover and cast a seductive blue-eyed glance at him. “But perhaps you can help me relearn.”
“Oooh,” he said, then recalling their slight quarrel in the lab, he added, “Perhaps we can reintegrate simultaneously.”
Grabbing a firm female calf, Drason proceeded to touch her lips with his own.
Suddenly, the harsh hissing of static filled the den. Drason turned in annoyance to find the holovision field likewise filled with static specks, and he sighed, “Damn.”
“Wait, Dray! Look!”
At her sharp instruction, Drason turned further. A similar field of glittering specks had appeared beside the holovision, but a field slender in the vertical axis. Gradually, the field took human form, a female form. Then, still glittering with random specks, the image spoke.
“Don’t be alarmed,” it said, its voice tainted with the hiss of static. “I won’t harm you.”
“W-what the frac?” stammered Drason. “What do you mean you won’t harm us? You’re in mid-transmat! You can’t do anything! You shouldn’t be able to speak! But how–” He stood up in alarm and in awe. Someone had defied the mid-transmat stasis field required for successful matter reintegration.
“You are correct,” replied the image. “The image you see is in mid-transmat. But this is not an ordinary transmat procedure. Nor am I within the transmat field.”
“But I see you! You’re standing right in front of me!” he exclaimed. Apolla too had risen, and took Drason’s shaking hand in her own as she stood closely beside him.
The female image sighed. Then continued, “I will explain. I will explain everything… once you accept me.. not as some sort of freak, but as a person and as a friend, Dray… and Apple.” A brief moment of astonishment passed through them as they turned to look at one another. How did she know our nicknames? they thought. They were bewildered. They were afraid. Yet the glittering image before them relayed a detectable sincerity, and seemed strangely familiar.
Apolla caught Drason’s slight nod, and she turned to the image, “Yes… you are a friend.”
An awkward pause permeated the room, as the holovision resumed its hiss. An inexplicable yet discernible bond was present among the three. Dralla knew who these two young people were. They were her sep-parents. They were, who she used to be.
Drason and Apolla did not know whose image this was. But they felt they should have known. It was to them, inexplicable.
The lone male in the room broke the pause. “Well, I’m sorry about the HV.” Drason walked over to the sofa and found the button on the controller which turned the holovision off, and another button which brightened the den panellighting. “And I’m sorry about acting so…”
The image smiled. “You don’t have to apologize. I understand.” The young people once more looked at one another in amazement.
“Forgive me,” the female image sighed. “I will explain… from the beginning. But I don’t have unlimited time to do so.”
“Forgive us,” Apolla said, “for wasting your time. You must understand… well, I’m sure you do.” She smiled, then prompted, “Please. Go ahead.”
The image inhaled deeply, as the couple returned to the comfort of the sofa. “First of all, my name is Dralla, Prime Scientor Dralla. And I come from 15 kilodays in the future.”
“What?” Drason gasped before Apolla placed a calming hand upon his knee. “Sorry.”
Dralla continued, “I come from a future which is facing the possibility of global disaster. And I, with the backing of the Prime Administrator and Prime Militor, have turned to you two to rectify the situation.”
“But why us?” asked Drason. “What can we do about a global disaster?”
“I have come into the past. There is no distinguishable danger yet. But the potential still exists. It is hidden in the layers of time, but it still exists. In the future, the origin of that potential was revealed. What you can do is uproot that potential with my future knowledge, and uproot it before it could ever cast its mature black shadow upon us.
“As for the reason why I have chosen you, it revolves around your unique relationship to me. You see, my full name is Dralla… Meckle. I am the fuse-child of Drason Meckle and Apolla Pomaris. I am your fuse-child.”
“Fuse-child?” asked Apolla. “What do you mean by fuse-child?”
“Ah yes,” the Prime Scientor realized. “You don’t yet know the concept of Fusion relationships, do you?”
She paused. Then explained, “When the two of you succeeded with your experiment on transmaterialization hybridization, or TH, you were immediately recognized by the agricultural realm as saviors. The perfect crops and livestock could be bred more quickly, more efficiently. The medical realm soon followed, for the breakthrough could be applied to the design of medicine-producing plants and microorganisms. The TH process, dubbed the Biofusion process, represented the ultimate biotechnological achievement.
“Eventually and naturally, you seriously considered the next logical step: application to human beings. The process was modified to accommodate such extreme complexity, and a test date was set.
“Protest groups emerged throughout the world. These people believed that the process was unnatural, monstrous. Some thought that it would turn people into two-headed freaks. This was understandable. They feared the unknown. They feared the concept of losing their known and familiar individuality. Not unlike fearing death.
“Consequently, the test date was postponed, and a press conference was held in its place. I remember that day very well. It was as if I was on trial… I’m sorry, as if you were on trial. They accused you of being insane, of being the Devil’s workers, of perverting Nature in the Devil’s name. But the two of you firmly and proudly held your ground.
“You, Dray, told them, ‘We’ve already perverted Nature with the use of biotechnology in agriculture and medicine. And yet you eat the perverted meat and vegetables, and take medicine produced by the perverted microorganisms. Why is human Biofusion alone such a moral dilemma?’
“But they wouldn’t listen. You, Apple, related the potential benefits of Biofusion. You said, ‘Human Biofusion must be considered. On the personal level, Biofusion will bestow persons with the combined knowledge and experience of his or her separate pre-Fusion contributors, and with a nearly-doubled life span. On the global level, Biofusion will ease the population explosion, and beget such a continuing wave of geniuses that history has never before seen.’
“A few of them laughed. A few of them left. But you forgave them. What else could’ve been done? Soon the press conference was over, and the safety of home, and of a contingent of security personnel, surrounded you. After one night of intense discussion, you decided to participate as the test couple yourselves.
“Further protests were ignored. The test date arrived. And before an anxious crowd of reporters and Councillors, Militors and Scientors, friends and family, you entered the Biofusion chamber. The transmat code was punched in. And nervously holding hands, you, Dray and Apple, dematerialized.
“Rematerialization was, needless to say, successful. I, Dralla Meckle was born a little more than 2 kilodays from today, by your calendar, and I have lived as such for nearly 13 kilodays. In that time, the terms fuse-child and fuse-daughter were created to describe my relationship with respect to you. The prefix fuse- is derived from the word fusion. And the term created for your relationship to me, is sep-parent, the prefix sep- taken from the word separate. So, you two, Dray and Apple, are my sep-parents. And this person, the person that this time-transmatted projection represents, is your fuse-child. I am your fuse-child.”
The young couple was stunned. The female image still shimmering before them, had revealed an unbelievable series of events. Unbelievable! Not only did she claim to be from the future… she claimed that she was them, Drason Meckle and Apolla Pomaris, biologically, and apparently, spiritually, united, Fused. A single human being with some of their more recognizable physical characteristics: Drason’s red hair and above-average stature, Apolla’s calm countenance and attractive figure. A single being with both of their memories, both of their mannerisms. Dralla had replied with Apolla’s familiar phrase, “You don’t have to apologize. I understand.” She had called them by their nicknames. She had Apolla’s comforting gaze. She even had Drason’s occasional sigh. The tale seemed unbelievable. But it felt genuine.
This time, Apolla broke the silence. “I believe you, Dralla. I believe you are sincere and mean well. What is it that we must do to save your future… our future?”
The Prime Scientor in their future took another characteristic sigh. “The potential that must be uprooted originates with two brothers named Laris and Matis Kimmer. In less than 15 kilodays from now, they will Fuse and a madman will be born — a highly-intelligent madman with backgrounds as a brilliant, accomplished Scientor and as a member of a radical environmentalist group.”
“Quite a combination,” Drason commented, and looked up to see if his pun was inappropriate or unnecessary. But Apolla and Dralla had allowed themselves to smile, if only briefly.
“Yes, he is,” said Dralla, “which is why I had proposed to call upon you. Until we know he has initiated the particular power shutdown that would unleash nuclear-equivalent shock waves, all we can do is hunt for him. To safely shut down all the relevant systems before he can attack — like taking the power pack out of a discharger gun before he can pull the trigger — would take at least 2 days, due to the complex shutdown procedures. We’re sure the madman knows this, so this alternative was the first to be discarded. All other viable alternatives involved extensive uncertainty and destruction. We couldn’t make a move until he acted.”
“Couldn’t make a move, except for sending a message into the past,” Drason realized, “in which case, the uncertainty of locating him and of the time of his attack, is sidestepped, and destruction is avoided.”
“The madman,” Apolla added, “loses the upper hand.”
“Precisely,” the Prime Scientor confirmed. “And what you must do…” She paused. Then once more revealed the only sensible action available to uproot the likelihood of catastrophe. It was revealed but not unexpected. Drason and Apolla knew what they had to do before the word were spoken: “… what you must do… is to kill Laris and Matis Kimmer.”
* * *
“I still fail to understand,” Councillor Lir said, his wrinkled hand grasping his chin, “why we can’t just destroy the focal mirror satellite, and deactivate the column before he can deactivate the magshield. I do understand that there would be a Regional blackout and satellite fallout, but compared to the other alternatives, this would produce the least damage. That is, excluding the Prime Scientor’s plan to project herself into the past.”
Councillor Lir Rona had been invited along with Scientor Prama Endis and a few others by Scientor Brel to a closed discussion of the tactics that the madman might use to deactivate the magshield. Brel had believed that the Councillor could contribute to the effort to locate Kimmer, during the absence of the Prime Scientor when she would execute her unprecedented plan. But so far, he had been an elderly but active nuisance.
Brel nevertheless responded, “The reason why we can’t just destroy it, is because the possibility still exists that Prime Militor Braden and his forces may successfully stop the madman Kimmer. If we destroy the focal satellite, we will certainly avoid potentially greater destruction. But if he is stopped afterwards, we will never be certain that it was done before he could attack, had the satellite not been destroyed. That the madman Kimmer would likely discover the satellite destruction, anticipate it, or exploit it, creates this uncertainty. Consequently, it is possible that this course of action will be for nothing. And… I’m not willing to bring about destruction unless I know I cannot avoid it. Are you, Councillor?”
Lir looked up, not expecting the question. But with the experience of nearly 10 kilodays as a Councillor, he recovered. Smiling, he said, “As a matter of fact, I am. I believe the stakes are sufficiently high. But let me tell you this, Scientor Brel Maxon: Sometimes one doesn’t have the time nor the resources to know for certain. Sometimes one has to guess, to risk. If I suddenly put a discharger gun to your head, and you have a knife with which to defend yourself, will you not try to kill me, once I let my guard down?”
Brel hesitated ever so slightly. “I will perhaps wound you to gain possession of the gun, but I won’t intentionally kill you.”
“Ah, but can you be certain the wounds you inflict, won’t kill me?”
“Can you be certain you’ll disarm me, and recover the gun?”
“No.” Brel found himself in a rather difficult and rather embarrassing position. But he managed to keep his gaze upon the Councillor. “No, I cannot be certain about these points… but I can be certain that I was in mortal danger, which gave me sufficient reason to wound, perhaps to kill, in self-defense.”
At this point, Councillor Lir smiled broadly. “Really? Now suppose I told you that the gun lacked its power pack, or was a fake.” Lir chuckled. “In which case, you were in no danger at all, let alone mortal danger. You had no reason to defend yourself. You had wounded perhaps killed for no reason. But in your eyes, you did have a reason, just as we have a reason now.” Lir turned to find Brel staring away. “Now perhaps destroying that satellite isn’t such a bad idea after all.”
“Perhaps,” Brel softly replied, one hand rubbing his dark chin.
A distinct pause was felt among the meeting participants before Scientor Prama indicated, “Um, unfortunately, gentlemen, the Prime Scientor has already initiated her plan. All this talk is quite academic.”
“Actually, no.” Brel straightened up and faced his colleague, as his disappointment faded. “The Prime Scientor recognized that her plan also could be rendered unnecessary, if the Prime Militor succeeds in stopping Kimmer. Fortunately, the universal temporal constant is not zero, or else the modification of the past would change the present instantaneously. This constant, although miniscule with an order of magnitude of 10 to the -5, instead yields a considerable temporal wave delay that increases proportionally as temporal displacement increases. Hence, the Prime Scientor’s displacement of 15 kilodays, gives us just over a day before the present is redefined. It gives the search forces time. In turn, it gives the Prime Scientor time to abort her plan. So, she will instruct her sep-parents to disregard their mission if we time-transmat a second message — the word abort — to signal that the crisis has passed.
“Consequently, we must continue to explore tactics that Kimmer might use, in order to narrow down the search. This is the reason I invited you all here in the first place. After all, the problem exists in our time, and those in the past should not be made to deal with our problems.”
“So,” Lir said, “how do we start?”
Scientor Prama scanned the other faces in the circular holovision room, and could not seem to find a confused or anxious look. He wondered if being the youngest Scientor in the room, and in the Maxon Laboratory Complex, had something to do with it. He wondered if he was the only one who was ever confused. Then again, he thought, Scientor Brel did seem vulnerable before Councillor Lir, if only temporarily.
Prama decided to speak. “I guess my first question is: How can the madman deactivate the magshield?”
Brel turned to Scientor Chas Kandre, one of the principal designers of the solar column, and gave her a single nod. It was her territory.
“First of all,” Scientor Chas began, and activated the holovision housed within the circular table, “I do not believe it is likely that Kimmer will aim for any of the larger and more obvious components in the magshield system, such as the magshield generators and the geothermal terminals.” She called up a detailed image of the system and indicated the various components within the holovision field. “As you can see, each of these components possesses its own defensive shield. I doubt Kimmer would attack them.”
“I agree,” Councillor Lir said. “Too obvious. Too protected.”
“Then one of the less protected components,” Prama figured, “like the pipes.”
The female Scientor nodded. “Yes, the pipelines are more probable targets, for they have no shields to speak of. And depending on the pipeline that is damaged or destroyed, Kimmer can initiate one of several chain reactions that could possibly shut down the magshield.”
Brushing away bundles of wavy brown and silver hair from her smooth forehead, Scientor Chas explained, “First, he can sever the magma flow to one of the geothermal terminals from which the flow of pressurized water draws heat.” The corresponding pipelines shone in a bright red at her touch of a button. “Second, he can sever the pressurized water flow between a terminal and a steam generator.” The corresponding pipelines shone in green. “Or third, he can sever the unpressurized water flow between a steam generator and a turbo-generator, which provides the magshield generators with electricity.” These pipelines shone in blue. “Any one of these pipelines can be severed to initiate the possible shutdown of the magshield.”
“One? Why only one?” asked Councillor Lir.
“Hold on, Councillor,” Chas smilelessly held up a small hand. “I haven’t finished.” The Councillor himself raised both aged hands in mock surrender. The female Scientor still did not smile. Lir lowered his hands in further defeat. The rest of the group, however, enjoyed the scene.
“As I was saying,” Scientor Chas resumed, “any one pipeline can be severed. However, there are also the electrical power cables connecting the turbo-generators to the magshield generators.” The holographic images of the cables took on a bright orange. “These too are probable targets because of their lack of protection. And here also, any one can be severed to initiate possible shutdown. Thus, the system possesses nearly 50 relatively unprotected lines of pipes and cables, out of which Kimmer can choose to sever.”
Lir spoke once more, “In addition to my first question, I’d like to ask, assuming you’re finished…” Chas nodded. “… Why have you repeatedly said possible when referring to the magshield shutdown. I mean, I know that the shutdown is possible. However, you still consider it possible and not inevitable, given the assumption that the madman does sever a line. Why?”
“Very perceptive of you, Councillor,” remarked the Scientor. “I will answer both of your questions together for they are quite related.” She thought about sitting, but decided to remain on her feet. Brel and Lir were on their feet as well, each leaning against the bare curved wall, as Prama and several others sat in nearby chairs. Chas then moved to the table to return the colored images to the original white outlines.
She answered, “The magshield system has a mechanism that deactivates all the other magshield generators when one in particular is deactivated.” She pressed several buttons and one of the magshield generators turned purple. “This anticipates, thus facilitates, shutdown for repairs by eliminating excess shutdown controls and procedures. Of course, this mechanism would be triggered only when the solar column itself has been deactivated. And that requires a much more complex shutdown procedure.”
This time, Scientor Prama spoke, “So, to answer both of Councillor Lir’s questions, if the line the madman chooses, is one that deactivates the magshield generator indicated in purple, then the mechanism can possibly shut down the entire magshield system. And you say possibly because the solar column itself may or may not be deactivated for that mechanism to be triggered.”
“Yes,” Brel said as Chas nodded.
“What happens,” Prama continued, “if the mechanism is not triggered? Do the other magshield generators compensate for the loss?”
“Yes,” Chas replied. “The magshield output of the remaining generators is boosted, the solar column intensity is reduced since the extra output does not fully compensate, and the collector rotation is slowed to maintain the constant electrical flow to the Region. The unique collection process might’ve been explained to us by its designer Scientor Laris, but…”
A strange atmosphere formed upon mention of the madman’s brilliant sep-parent — a silent atmosphere filled with regret, admiration, anger, and frustration. A respected Scientor and long-time member of the Complex was lost… and yet he hadn’t really died. He had Fused.
Of the group, Brel and Chas knew Laris best. Brel never really developed a close relationship with Laris in the 3 kilodays he had been a Complex member. It was difficult for him to talk to, let alone make friends with, someone he highly admired. He didn’t think it was appropriate.
Chas, however, knew Laris for nearly 10 kilodays, since his first kiloday in the Complex. Early in their careers, they worked closely on several projects guided by Scientor Dralla, who hadn’t been appointed Prime Scientor yet. Soon, Chas became Laris’ aide in the design of the rotating collector of the solar column. She simultaneously participated in the design of the magshield system, but working with such a unique individual gave her more pleasure.
Although Laris was a quiet and eccentric man, Chas adored his intellectual and creative powers — adored his brilliance. Even on the triumphant day the solar column was activated, Laris remained rather quiet as he endured the compliments and congratulations with a tired joyless smile. But she continued to love him, despite his inability to reciprocate that love. She continued despite his inability to understand why she felt the way she did. And despite their growing apart over the last 8 kilodays and his unexpected Fusion with his tru-brother, Chas still loved him.
Nearly a full milliday passed before someone gained the courage to speak above the hum of the operating holovision.
Keeping Chas in his view, Brel softly said, “What we must focus our attention on, is how… uh, the madman… will trigger that control mechanism.” Chas still stood silently with her head lowered and her hand covering her eyes.
Scientor Brel added, “The shutdown procedure of the column is indeed very complicated. I believe the most recent calculations of the recommended shutdown period estimate 2 days, give or take 1 deciday. This includes the safe diversion of electrical flow throughout the Region. However, the shutdown procedure of the magshield is relatively simple as we have seen. Deactivation of the first magshield generator has been estimated at a mere 3 decidays.”
He paused. Chas had recovered somewhat and was now looking at Brel, with her arms folded upon her chest.
He continued. “The reason for this contrast in complexity was this: The shutdown procedure for the solar column was designed to handle the magshield as well. In fact–”
“In fact,” Scientor Chas interrupted, “that particular design decision was arrived at, partly because the possibility of a massive system-wide failure that we are now facing, was never considered, with such advanced technology at our disposal. The only sensible reason a shutdown system was designed at all was to allow the future to safely deactivate it when something better came along. The column was designed to operate indefinitely, until such a time came. It didn’t need multiple shutdown systems of equally-high complexity. So a major and minor system was designed.” A distinct pause let the others know that she was finished, that they could now speak.
“And since it seems logical that the… madman will attack a pipeline or cable line in the minor shutdown system,” Prama reasoned, “we have to determine how he’ll bypass the major shutdown system, and trigger the magshield mechanism.”
Brel and Chas nodded.
“Let me get this straight,” Lir responded. “Are you saying that if Kimmer somehow causes the mechanism to think the solar column is deactivated without it actually being deactivated, then all he’ll have to do will be to shut down a single magshield generator… and he’ll successfully shut down the magshield?”
“Yeah,” Scientor Prama replied.
A new atmosphere of silence permeated the room. This time, uncertainty and frustration dominated. And this time, the quiet was shattered quickly by the youngest in the group.
“At least, we’ve narrowed the number of probable target lines to the 8 immediate power lines,” indicated Prama. “But now, here’s my next question…” All eyes turned to the youth who, in the presence of the Prime Scientor not too long ago, had made his frustrations known. “… How the hell will the madman make the mechanism think the column is down without it actually being down?”
* * *
Prime Scientor Dralla once more relaxed in the home away from home that was her office. The soft wide couch was required this time, as she thought amusedly, My exhaustion is enough for two people.
Dralla had completed her message to her young sep-parents several centidays ago, and now felt some relief in transferring the burden of her plan to them. However, the burden was now replaced with an odd mixture of guilt and hope. Perhaps I shouldn’t have returned to my sep-parents, she thought. So young. And to kill? They may not withstand such pressure.
Another potential selection of time points had been a displacement of only 10 kilodays into the past, when she had already been Fused for 2 kilodays. However, the temporal constant would allow the search forces in the present only 7 decidays, rather than the 10 decidays they now had. She had to make a decision, and had selected the displacement that gave Prime Militor Braden’s forces an additional 3 decidays with the hope that her young sep-parents were as strong as she remembered them to be.
They were indeed strong, she thought. They accepted me so trustingly, so confidently. And Dralla felt proud.
She looked up at the blank ceiling, trying to clear her mind, and to get some rest. But it was difficult. Maybe because it’s too quiet in here, she wondered. So she took the controller that was resting upon her chest, found the button that turned on the music, and pressed it. Gently, a tranquil electronic melody rose to the preset sound level, and just as gently, Dralla closed her eyes.
But it still didn’t help. Sleep didn’t come. Her thoughts and feelings made her too restless. Not unlike the wild flailing of arms scaring away the descending doves, she thought, her dark eyes back open.
Frustrated, Dralla shifted her gaze wanderingly upon the various objects and features of her office. The shelves of electrotexts, and the kinetic sculpture of golden tetrahedrons. The detailed model of a lunar mining vessel, and the holographic map fields of the star system. Eventually, her gaze rested upon a large holographic portrait hanging on a far wall. The portrait was that of her sep-parents, the day before their momentous Fusion. Drason, wearing a black tunic with bright red sleeves, grinned handsomely in his moustache and beard, while Apolla, in a flowing robe of gleaming blue, smiled enchantingly as her long golden hair fell to her chest.
But this wasn’t the couple Dralla had left in the past just centidays ago… that is, not yet. The people she had just left were each two kilodays younger, two kilodays less experienced. Drason didn’t yet have the moustache and beard; Apolla still wore her hair short. Two perfect examples of the young clean-cut Scientor of the Complex. Both full of ambition and determination. Both wide-eyed newcomers to the Region. And just as she remembered… both in love with each other.
The soft electromusic took a sombre turn as it permeated the spacious top-floor office. Responding to the changes in key and timing, Dralla took a likewise sombre direction of thought.
Laris and Matis… they must’ve felt the same irresistible, indisputable bond or love. She paused. Or else, felt some overwhelming purpose in their souls. Surely, they perceived a threat greater than EM pollution for them to attempt to shut down the magshield… Wait. What am I thinking? The birth of a madman could never have been planned.
The Biofusion process, or more technically, the transmat hybridization process, was first developed by the team of Drason Meckle and Apolla Pomaris, as a contribution to the agricultural and medical realms. It was further improved by Dralla Meckle as a contribution to social as well as physiological improvement. Extending beyond the transportation process of the standard transmat, Biofusion was a procedure that basically performed the following: (1) the matter from two separate organisms is converted into energy, while the computer extracts the chromosomal and, when applicable, the holographic cerebral patterns of each; (2) the computer performs a random selection of chromosomes, one from each of the involved chromosomal pairs, for each organism; (3) the two chromosomal sets are appropriately paired to establish the physical composition of the new individual organism, and when applicable, the two holo-cerebral patterns are combined in superimposition to establish the psychological composition of the new organism; (4) the energy is converted back into matter as defined by the established physical and psychological patterns; and (5) the excess energy that is not reconverted to matter is employed to stabilize the new holo-cerebral pattern and to slow the aging process.
Within several centidays of the madman’s escape, when Prime Scientor Dralla had inspected the computer records of the Kimmer brothers’ Fusion, she had discovered what she had hoped not to discover. The computer had randomly selected the Y-chromosome from Laris and from Matis, establishing a Y-Y sex-chromosome pair, and giving birth to a rare supermale.
Given two males, each possessing the normal X-Y sex-chromosome pair, the risk of the computer selecting a Y-Y pair was 25%. However, after over 10 kilodays of being requested, Biofusion had rarely witnessed a male-male participation. Only twice before had there been such a participation. And both Fusions had been successful. The incredible bond held by each couple enabled them to take the 25% risk, and they won.
But here was the first instance where such a risk-taking couple had lost. It was so unfortunate. Furthermore, they had requested a private Fusion. No family, no friends to witness the birth, just the Biofusion chamber operator, who would then be attacked and killed by the madman. No one would be able to identify the new Kimmer.
Dralla lost her awareness of the music as she once more became absorbed in the mental reconstruction of the events immediately following the Kimmer Fusion.
The madman, she thought, emerges from the Biofusion chamber in the light-blue birthgown that materialized upon Fusion completion. He unexpectedly jumps behind the operator, efficiently breaking his neck. And he inconspicuously travels the virtually empty corridors in the operator’s simple uniform. Soon, he reaches the main entrance. But he forgets the departure security code and angrily walks away. The few persons nearby briefly notice an angry man in a common engineer uniform and then casually return to their own businesses. Eventually and quietly, he enters the Security Center of the Complex, punches in the 10-character arms-locker code, and obtains two twin-particle-ray dischargers. Lastly, he blasts his way out of the Complex, killing several more persons in the process.
Dralla again paused. She felt so sorry for the innocent bystanders who had been needlessly murdered. Three of my Scientor colleagues and two Security personnel, she thought. They didn’t deserve to die the way they did… So terrible.
Her mind continued its internal conflict. Yet does the madman deserve to die the way that he will soon die, kilodays before his Fusion accident? As his sep-parents Laris and Matis? As… two innocent pre-adolescent brothers?
“What have I done?” she uttered through the new electronic melody. “I have ordered the death of children… Am I as bad as the madman?” Worse?”
“No,” she answered herself, “I cannot be. I have worked to prevent Regional and planetary disaster. I have worked for the safety of the overwhelming majority. If Prime Militor Braden fails, Laris and Matis must be sacrificed. Even if it means possibly losing the solar column system in the redefined present.”
Suddenly, the Prime Scientor realized she had been talking out loud. She had also propped herself up on her elbows. Forcing herself to calm down, she eased her head back into the cushion, and returned to her non-verbal self-conversation.
Yes, they must both be killed. Death is the surest, simplest way to uproot the threat. There wasn’t enough time nor resources to devise a more delicate and intricate strategy which spared the madman’s life. So what was left had been devoted to the time-transmat. The madman could shut down the magshield any time, so the time-transmat had to be achieved immediately… Not unlike quickly chopping down an entire tree rather than patiently trimming specific branches, to eliminate the shadow upon a seedling.
“I’m sorry, Kimmer,” Dralla whispered softly and sincerely. “I’m sorry, Laris.”
Eventually, her eyes closed as nothing further disturbed her mind. And with the now moonless night blanketing the glittering city, and a now elegant melody blanketing her spacious office, the Prime Scientor finally fell asleep.
* * *
“Apple!” Drason loudly whispered. “Apple?”
“Yeah?” Apolla similarly whispered.
“Is it set?”
“Just a couple of microdays… almost… there… Okay, it’s set.”
Apolla completed the activation code of the mini-materializer that she had affixed to the underside of the parked hovercar, as Drason knelt on the other side of the vehicle, searching the darkness for any unexpected witnesses.
“I still can’t believe we’re doing this,” said Drason.
“Well,” Apolla whispered urgently, “now we’re done with this part. Let’s go.”
The two found a secluded pocket beneath the foliage, and as they stood closely together, Drason nodded to Apolla and touched the button of a second minimat held in his gloved hand. Silently, they disappeared.
When the image from the future appeared before them nearly one hectoday ago, Drason and Apolla had undoubtedly been bewildered. Only after several days had passed, did their extraordinary mission sink into their everyday awareness. Another several days were required to flush away the confusion, the skepticism, the indecision, and to replace it with a firm confidence in their fuse-child and their mission.
The most enduring question they had considered, had been the question of why both Laris and Matis had to be killed. It would seem that one would suffice. And the other who would survive would grow up, without his brother, sufficiently different from his counterpart self in the original timeline, to avoid another unfortunate Fusion.
However, Dralla had maintained that there was not enough time and resources left to determine whether Laris or Matis possessed the key to successfully initiate a disastrous power shutdown. Or whether eliminating only one was a sufficiently effective option at all. Either brother could possess that crucial element of creativity, rationality, or even persistence, and carry it through to the altered present in perhaps another ill-fated Fusion, and another attempt at shutdown. There would be no second chance at defining a new reality; the first and only time had to succeed. And the most certain way to achieve this was to eliminate both brothers.
With no other experts from the future to offer an alternative strategy, Drason and Apolla were spared the tedious decidays that Dralla had endured, debating over which plan should be employed to avert the most damage. They soon convinced themselves that their mission was in the right.
With no second and aborting signal from the future, they continued planning the details of their mission, of the double assassination. However, they wouldn’t think of it as assassination. How could they do so, as they gathered the machinery that would end the young brothers’ lives? Yet, the particular machinery they gathered, allowed the less guilty perception that perhaps the 4-kiloday-old Laris and the 1-kiloday-old Matis wouldn’t actually be killed.
Using the standard transmat and the portable minimat, the two Scientors intended to transmat Laris and Matis into outer space as unreintegrated energy. They thought this was a far more humane method than one that involved a bomb, a discharger, or a poison. Besides, their knowledge of transmat technology could be applied. Whether or not it was an evil application, was briefly discussed; there was no use in morally labeling a mission of substantial necessity and consequence. Simply put, it just had to be done.
The standard transmat was obtained, using funds from the Maxon Laboratory Complex. A statement of purpose was required by the Complex, and it was provided: “We, Scientors Drason Meckle and Apolla Pomaris, request the sum of 8000 currens. This sum will be directed towards the requisition of a 4-point transmat unit from the local matport of Sunview district, for the continued advancement of our research in transmaterialization hybridization.” Other irritating procedures were required and endured, and within a long dekaday, the transmat stood in their lab.
The mini-materializers or minimats, essentially portable stasis-field stabilizers, were cleverly fashioned from the 4-point transmat. Since each point represented one stasis-field stabilizer, the two Scientors had three stabilizers to modify into minimats, leaving one untouched in the original transmat to provide a laboratory point stasis field.
The minimat that Drason and Apolla had just employed, transmatted them back to a third minimat, where they had parked their own hovercar about two kilometers away. This direction was taken in part as a precaution against undesired detection, but mainly as a consequence of the limitations in local stabilizer design.
“Destination: 31 dash 34 dash 57 Daypoint Line,” Drason instructed the hovercar computer, as the two entered the vehicle.
“We’re going back?” asked Apolla.
The red-stubbled Scientor eyed his weary-seeming partner oddly. “Our minimat.”
“Oh, that’s right. Why do I keep forgetting?”
“I guess it’s because it’s easy to. It’s conditioned. After a transmat, no one ever thinks about the transmat chamber one just left. In this case, it’s our minimat.”
“I guess so.”
When the two had transmatted just moments ago, the minimat in Drason’s hand was left behind. The present technology lacked the precision necessary for self-inclusive transmat units. And to cover their tracks, they had to recover the second stasis-field stabilizer, abandoned temporarily.
Swiftly, their hovercar returned to Daypoint Line and to the humble structure of the Kimmer residence.
“There it is,” said Apolla, spotting the minimat. The shiny ellipsoid form sat where they left it, beside a cluster of small trees on the opposite side of the narrow street.
“I’ll get it,” she added.
As Apolla smoothly stepped out and over to the device, her companion checked the readings on the remote controller of the first minimat.
“Power pack… full,” Drason said to himself. “Energy flow… steady. Heart sensor… normal. Remote receiver… normal. Good.”
Quickly, his colleague returned and stepped smoothly back into the vehicle.
“Destination: Home,” Drason instructed as the door slid behind Apolla. He turned to her. “The minimat is operating without any problems.”
The blond Scientor leaned back in her inclined seat. She replied, “That’s good,” as the penetrating lamplights of the transportation hoverline accelerated past.
Then abruptly, her blue eyes brightened. “But can I make one more transmat? It feels much more exciting with the minimat.”
“I… I don’t know,” was the hesitant response.
The young female answered sharply, “Come on, Dray. All we’ll be doing for the next couple of decidays, will be waiting. This’ll take no more than one-tenth of a milliday and no more than one-third of the minimat power pack. And if you’re worried about transmission detection, we can park at the matport to camouflage my transmat among the other transmats made over there.”
“You really want to make one more transmat, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Why, all of a sudden?” Drason said, as the light from the passing hoverline lamps flashed rapidly upon his days-unshaven face.
“I guess it must be the power.” Apolla fell back into her seat once more. She gazed through the windshield at the colorful patterns of hovercar and hoverline lights dancing under the evening sky. Several distant spots blinked steadily in unison as others streaked across in chaos. And high to the right, the white crescent of one of the moons, hovered in seeming retreat of their hovercar.
Apolla returned her focus to the spots that continued to blink amid the jumble, their only importance defined by swinging from darkness to brightness and back again and again. Beating.
Beating, she thought, not unlike a lonely heart in a crowd… or a hovercar engine in traffic. Then she smiled. Or a dance rhythm on the music holovision.
Suddenly, she heard her lover’s baritone, and stammered softly, “S-sorry, what?”
“I said, ‘What power?’ ”
“Power?” Apolla repeated in brief confusion. “Oh yeah, the power, the minimat… I must really like the power to transport to whichever self-set reception point I please, whenever I please. No crowded lines to wait in. No expensive fares to pay. Now I know why the rich and famous use these minimats. And why I’m gonna use it one more time, right, Dray?”
“I still don’t know.”
“Come on, Dray.”
“Let me think about it.”
Despite his belief that making important decisions builds up character, Drason nevertheless disliked the uncomfortable feelings they brought on. The two of them had labored long and hard to design their plan for this mission. Like the architects of the period, they designed a scheme that suited the context and fulfilled the objective. And similarly, Drason didn’t want the resources required to realize the plan, to be wasted. At the same time, however, he missed the wasteful fun that had more than occasionally popped up, before the burden of a future responsibility was laid upon their shoulders.
Maybe now isn’t such a bad time to let Apple have her fun, considered Drason. Or to let myself join her. This time, it was his turn to smile.
Apolla caught his handsome grin, and almost laughing, asked him, “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing. I’ve just decided against your transmatting one more time.”
“What?” Apolla exclaimed. “How could you? You know, Dray, you can be such a– What is so funny now?”
“Perhaps two or more times will be more appropriate.” The grin on Drason’s face grew wider, and Apolla swiftly realized.
“You know, Dray, you can be such a considerate… idiot.”
“Ohhh, the fresh Apple strikes again.”
“And that’s not all.” The slender yet shapely woman with the short golden hair moved nearer to her interested partner. Upon her instruction, “Windows: Opaque,” the computer darkened the flat dome of transparency around them. With a quickening heartbeat, she delivered a deep moist kiss that sent a series of shivers down her recipient’s spine. And under the gentle glow of the indicator displays, she undid her dark shirt to reveal a mysteriously lit pair of dim crescents rising and falling softly with every excited breath.
Despite his own stimulated condition, Drason managed to add, “Destination: Sunview Matport… uh, Lot B… Music: Soft Electro… Volume:… uhh, 2.” As his trousers were unfastened, he further managed to note in his supine position, the time glowing on the control panel.
It was 0.83 decidays into the day, the target day. It was also 2.17 decidays before the standard start of the school day. This left just about 2 decidays for them to spend.
As the hovercar sped smoothly towards the local matport, the single moon above would only have its light beams reflected from the mirrored dome as it futilely attempted to witness how the two lovers would spend the time within. Oblivious to the lunar attempts, and for now, to their unique mission, the two would spend the time in blissful union, in rhythmic unison. Beating.
* * *
“Laris! Matis! Time for breakfast!” yelled their father from the brightly sunlit kitchen.
Little Matis Kimmer bounced to the kitchen table with the expected energy of his near 1-and-a-half kilodays, while his older brother remained in the playroom before the holovision.
“Okay, wait!” answered Laris, wearing the control gloves that manipulated his energy heroes within their vast hyper-dimensional maze of robotic monsters and demonic creatures. “Five more millidays!”
“Okay, only five!”
Laris turned on his most-recent favorite hologame less than half a centiday ago, and already his Hyperalpha Spiritrons reached Level 3 of the Psychlair Maze. Two of his Spiritrons only lost 10% mobility and 10% strength, while the other 3 only lost 5% endurance and 5% strength. If he could keep at least 3 of his heroes alive with at least 50% mobility, strength, and endurance by Level 4, he knew he could reach Level 5 again. But Level 4 was a pain, especially that Roboweb thing.
“Damn!” Laris cursed above the dark hologame tune, as Level 3 Spiderbots ambushed 2 of his weaker Spiritrons from behind. With only 3 fiery blasts, they swiftly escaped under his manipulation. But not without a 1% loss of endurance to each Spiritron.
His team, represented by miniature humanoid images in the holovision sphere, continued through the dim tunnels, very much with the look and sound of a dramatic holovision broadcast. The jagged tunnel walls continued to roll backward with its mysterious blue glow. The rhythm of their steps continued to echo hollowly throughout the irregular corridors. And suddenly, in the corner of his eye, Laris saw–
The 4-kiloday-old sighed, took off his control gloves, turned off the hologame and holovision, and finally entered the kitchen, briefly squinting at the abrupt change in room brightness.
“Di’ ja win?” little Matis asked his hologame hero.
“Nah, not yet.” Laris took his seat at the white circular table, scanned his food, and began to eat.
“Still?” was little Matis’ surprised high-pitched reply. “I jes’ got ta Level 3 two days ago, ‘member dat?”
* * *
 I added and edited a few lines to smooth out the rough patches in the original version.
 Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to conclude the sequel. I wonder what happened next…
But guess what? I found some sketchy notes for the rest of the story! Should I finish it?