Copyright (c) 2018 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
Workers from all over Gravitron City responded to alarms sounding in the workstations and experimental labs associated with “Wanda” the fourth dark matter element. Alvin Sullenger was rushed to the medical level although the technicians attending him thought it was hopeless … he was dead.
Lewis Somató III, who was in the sick bay after a recent fainting fit, sat up in bed as Alvin was wheeled past him and into the emergency room. “Prepare the O.R. for surgery,” one the lead doctor ordered a team of nurses. The doctor shook his head in dismay as he examined the multiple gunshot wounds … the prognosis looked hopeless. “We’ll have to try open chest cardiac massage on Alvin … it’s his only chance at a miracle!”
A nurse walked in and handed Lewis a large envelope. He was about to tell her not to bother him at a time like this when he noticed Alvin’s handwriting on the outside. Open At Once! It read.
Lewis read the page of instructions with fascination, and then sprung out of bed. “Don’t bother. They’re all dead,” Lewis told the doctor. “There’s a Gladiator arena on level four that’s big enough to hold all these fatalities. Let’s see what a quantum physics replay has in store for our dear departed Alvin and his associates.”
The doctor shrugged. He really didn’t think the heart massage would work and he’d heard rumors of miraculous things happening in the research areas connected to the second dark matter element … perhaps they would again. “It’s worth a chance,” he said.
Doctor Martin Liston moved easily through the halls filled with frantic and rushing people toward the elevators. Everything was going as planned … he hoped. Howard M. Bisen jumped into the elevator beside him just as the door closed. “I saw what you did back there,” Bisen said. “Killing Alvin and his research team!”
Martin made as if to reach for a hidden gun he didn’t have. “Easy!” Bisen told him stopping his hand. “I believe we’re on the same side.”
“How’s that?” Martin said.
“I was sent here to terminate our illustrious benefactor as well … looks like you beat me to it!”
“The C.I.A. is redundant to a fault,” Martin sneered. “Why send one assassin when you can send a dozen?”
“If you’re C.I.A. give me the project code-word,” Bisen said.
Martin laughed. “Why the hell should I? I don’t need you for anything.”
“It would look better for me,” Bisen admitted. “If it appeared as if we were cooperating.”
“And what exactly can you do for me?”
“I have an escape plan in place,” Bisen said. “I think your plan must have been improvised and wasn’t meant to happen this soon.”
“When the duck flies a hunter has to be ready to shoot,” Marin quipped.
“Follow me,” Bisen told him. “I have a helicopter waiting outside.”
Alvin Sullenger and all the laboratory workers that Doctor Martin Liston shot were rolled into a giant chamber resembling a convection oven and prepared to be bombarded with Gladys particles. “I want every person who wasn’t on the inter-dimensional level before the shooting to either leave or watch with us in this observation chamber,” Lewis Somató ordered. “Although these experiments have been carried out numerous times, there is no real way of knowing exactly what is going to happen.” He set the timer for minus four minutes and nineteen seconds and started the dark matter sequence.
Tension in the observation chamber climbed as the timer counted down the seconds. Then reality rippled; time reversed itself. Those in the observation chamber became as ghosts, only able to look on as an alternative reality played out before their astonished eyes:
“You seemed to have skipped a sibling,” Martin said as Alvin entered the room. The Marvelettes’ song Please Mr. Postman was playing softly over loudspeakers. “I was expecting to dance with Katherine.”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to dance with her sister.” Alvin smiled. “Although we know Katherine exists and can see her imprint in the cosmic sands of time she is now and for the foreseeable future, one of the lost elements of Dark Matter.”
“If she turns up while I’m gone, please let me know,” Martin sang off key to an old Beatles’ song. Two Gravitron workers were fitting him with a special dark energy helmet. “To tell you the truth Wanda frightens me a little,” Martin said. “Imagination might be best left inside one’s mind. The ability to think of something and have it become reality is too scary a power as far as I’m concerned.”
Alvin smiled. “Somehow I can’t imagine you wishing for a million dollars and then holding it in your hand or a diamond as big as a baseball and trying to fit it in your pocket.”
“You might be surprised,” Martin grinned. “Most of the doctors I know at Cambridge wear the same ragged suits for years. The taxman in Britain has sticky fingers and nothing slips between them.”
“This experiment is quite simple,” Alvin told him. “You think of an object appearing in your right hand and Wanda makes it a reality.”
“Sounds like magic,” Martin said.
“Many particle scientists believe the universe is nothing more than a giant hologram,” Alvin told him, “with our experiments so far … I tend to agree with them.”
The technicians finished adjusting the helmet and Alvin told them to dim the lights. “I’ve often found that the period right before sleep is the most conductive to imagination,” Alvin said, “relax and imagine an object in your hand.”
“Any object?” Martin asked.
“You know what I’m talking about,” Alvin said. “It’s the only way!”
Martin appeared to struggle for several minutes. Alvin was glad to see finally see him relax. A large hippopotamus suddenly appeared in the room and charged the control booth. Alvin and several workers screamed as the huge beast shattered the glass … and trampled those inside.
“Reset Gladys and prepare for another sequence,” Lewis Somató ordered. “We’ll take almost any alternate reality where Alvin and our colleagues aren’t killed.”
“You seemed to have skipped a sibling,” Martin said as Alvin entered the room. The Marvelettes’ song Please Mr. Postman was playing softly in the background. “I was expecting to have my pleasure with Katherine.”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for her sister.” Alvin smiled. “Although we know Katherine exists and can see her imprint in the cosmic sands of time she is unfortunately one of the lost elements of Dark Matter.”
“Though tonight she’s made me sad … I still love her,” Martin sang off key to an old Beatles’ song. Two Gravitron workers were fitting him with a special dark energy helmet. “To tell you the truth, Wanda scares the heck out of me,” Martin said. “Imagination is best left inside one’s mind … the ability to think of something and have it become reality is too scary a power as far as I’m concerned.”
Alvin smiled. “Somehow I can’t imagine you wishing for a million pounds or an emerald as big as a goose-egg and trying to fit it in your pocket.”
“You might be surprised,” Martin grinned. “Most of the doctors I know at Cambridge wear the same ragged suits for years. The taxman in Britain has sticky fingers and they reach everywhere.”
“This experiment is quite simple,” Alvin told him. “You think of an object appearing in your right hand and Wanda makes it appear.”
“I wondered where the word wand came from,” Martin mused.
“The world’s foremost particle scientists believe the universe is nothing more than an extremely vivid hologram,” Alvin told him, “I’m waiting for someone to bring the popcorn.”
The technicians finished adjusting the helmet and Alvin told them to turn off the lights. “I’ve found that the period right before sleep is the most conductive to imagination,” Alvin said, “relax and imagine an object in your hand.”
“Any object?” Martin asked.
“You know what I’m talking about,” Alvin said. “We’ve planned this for months!”
Martin appeared to struggle for several minutes. Alvin was glad to see finally see him relax.
Suddenly Marin stood up removing the helmet from his head. The Glock 17 pistol in his hand wasn’t there before. He smiled again but this time he looked reptilian. “I’m sorry Alvin old boy, but you make this too easy.”
Alvin was astonished. “You’re the spy? I don’t believe this!”
“Why not?” Martin said. “American money spends just as fast in London as it does in New York.”
“What is it you’re after?” Alvin motioned for the technicians to step to one side.
“Your life, I’m afraid,” Marin said pointing the gun at his benefactor. “The United States Government has decided that no man should have this kind of power so you are expendable. Once you’re out of the way, Gravitron will fall under the control of corporations loyal to governmental needs and obligations. We went to great lengths to smuggle a weapon inside that I could use …. That wasn’t supposed to happen until a week from now. You made it too easy!”
“I don’t suppose you imagined a loaded gun, did you?” Alvin said taking a step forward.
“I’m sorry but I wouldn’t let any thought enter my mind that was not ready to kill,” Martin said.
When Martin pulled the trigger the gun exploded with a violent flash of purple light. A small metal fragment struck Alvin’s cheek but other than that the eminent scientist was unharmed. Several workers were knocked to the floor from the concussion.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen!” Martin screamed as he ran toward the exit holding his bleeding hand.
“This might be as close as we’re going to get,” Lewis Somató said as alarms throughout the complex began to sound. The halls and corridors of Gravitron City were suddenly a beehive of activity. “Shall I have security stop him from getting away?” One of the workers pointed to the fleeing Martin.
Lewis looked at the paper from the envelope. “No, let him go,” he replied.
It had been almost six months since the attempt on his life. Alvin Sullenger spent the morning sorting through a large stack of newspapers littering his desk. The gash across his cheek had left a scar but Alvin refused to see a plastic surgeon … he thought the wound made him look kind of like a pirate. Almost all the headlines were related to the same story. Five months ago an undisclosed source had revealed shocking information to the media that led to a full scale senate investigation of epic proportions. The director of the CIA and several prominent members of congress had ultimately been linked to the failed attempt on Alvin’s life. The President of the United States and almost all of her cabinet members had been forced to resign in disgrace and the investigation was still raging. Alvin still had political enemies, but for now they were on the run.
Alvin’s secretary Nancy Butterworth brought a large pot of coffee and a bowl filled with his favorite animal crackers. “What are your plans for the afternoon?” she asked as she filled his cup.
“Have Emerson fuel my private jet and file a flight plan for London,” Alvin replied.
Nancy looked at her watch. “Britain is seven hours ahead of us,” she said. “You won’t get there now until nearly midnight.”
“That sounds just about right,” Alvin told her.
Doctor Martin Liston was working at night in his Kensington estate. The distant traffic sounds of London were dampened by acres of royal and private gardens. The rich and slightly damp soil surrounding the rare and exotic flora and the cool night air felt good on his twisted and mangled hand. A dark figure suddenly loomed out of the fog and stood before him. It resembled the kind of stick figure with a large round head that children often draw. “I always knew you would come,” Martin stammered as he recognized his brilliant former employer. Martin tried to rise and knocked over a concrete gnome that had been guarding his flower beds.
“Be careful, Doctor,” Alvin told him. “That’s supposed to bring bad luck!” Alvin reached down and righted the statue. With the doctor’s corn-husk hair reaching toward the moon Alvin thought he looked more than ever like a Smurf.
“Looks like that bit of bad luck has finally arrived,” Martin said. The old scientist staggered to his feet. His shoulders sagged and his face was a roadmap of wrinkles. Alvin thought he looked twenty years older than when he’d last seen him.
“What do you remember about … us … about Gravitron?” Alvin questioned.
Martin took almost a minute to answer. His voice was one breath away from a cry.
“It seems like a series of horrible dreams … nightmares really,” Martin said. “I loved the city floating in the sky but in one dream I nearly kill you … in another I actually do. Each dream seems vivid enough to be a part of my past.” Marin tried to laugh but his voice sounded like a sob gone bonkers. “In one of my delusions I even imagine that we are still friends … and that I never really meant to hurt you … and that I even helped you in some way.”
“What’s that you’re making grow … my friend?” Alvin asked pointing to a strange species of cacti with a tiny black bud.
“It’s called Black Queen of the night, a rare night-blooming cereus from South America that flowers for a few hours once every six or seven years … no more than a dozen times a century.” Martin told him.
“Where does one find such exotic plants?’ Alvin asked.
“I’ve a friend who works the gardens of Hampton Court,” Martin said dusting his hands. “He is considered one of Britain’s finest gardeners … and heaven forbid the Queen should know, but he also does a bit of pruning and sly snipping for me … from time to time.”
“Look,” Alvin said, pointing to the plant.
They both watched as ever so slowly the tiny bud unfolded into a beautiful black flower glowing under the light of the moon. In the distance the sing-song one high one low pitch of a police or emergency vehicle could be heard. “At least this night has a bit of a happy ending.” Martin shook his head. “I got to see something of great value to gardeners … on my last night of freedom!”
“What are you talking about?” Alvin asked.
“I understand they don’t allow gardening for attempted murderers at HMP Belmarsh.” Tears ran down Martin’s face.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Alvin said. “Bring your flowers to Nevada with you. I’ll build you an entire botanical complex on the Wanda level.”
“But homicide …. Attempted homicide!” Martin wiped his nose. “How can you ever trust me again?”
“You have to trust a friend completely with no doubts what-so-ever to have them actually kill you,” Alvin forced himself not to laugh. “Thank goodness the universe has infinite realities. I have scores of friends on Capitol Hill … but none as loyal and trustworthy as you. Because you secretly infiltrated the CIA hit squad we were able to get that greedy witch who calls herself President and almost all her criminal accomplishes thrown out of office. I’d be willing to wager you a hundred pounds of Black Magic potting soil that they all do some prison time.”
Tears of joy were running down Martin’s face as Alvin put his arms around him. Martin reached out and touched the delicate dark flower petal shimmering in the moonlight. “It really is magic isn’t it?” Martin said.
“Yes,” Alvin told him looking up at the vastness of the universe. “It really is.”