This is the novel that distracted me from volumes 11 & 12. This is the first time I have strayed from the formula of having a historic item floating somewhere through a novel. This is the first novel I have written that is strictly science fiction. I had never found a decent enough subject before.
This time I found a device that allowed me to set the novel in the near future. It was a device that allowed me to change the future minutely within the frame of how we currently live, but as with all new technologies one has to be careful what they create and how they utilize their knowledge.
June 30th, 2016
The eyes always tell a lot about a person. The way the pupils dilate, the way the iris moves and at what speed… the vagaries of those tiny veins in the whites of the eyes… just how late did you stay out last night and what was that you were drinking with those innocuous little pills.
Meet Emma. Her eyes are hazel. Her pupils are surprisingly dilated and the whites of her eyes are pure, where they are white, for she is young and the stress of life has yet to encroach on them. However, there are a few wicked claws of red creeping across those whites because last night turned into today and she and the girls had an orsum time.
Emma’s eyes are framed by her beautifully manicured brows. They are browner than her hair which has traces of blonde, but she wouldn’t be considered as such. Not that this is the focus of the watcher as her eyes are moving far too rapidly and drawing all the attention.
Emma’s eyes are wide open and flitting from side to side. They are betrayed further by the sweat on her brow which is light, but becoming obvious enough as it begins to bead uncontrollably. She is also betrayed by her fingers as they sink ever deeper into the arms of the chair in which she sits.
What can you tell from Emma’s eyes… are they the windows to her soul?
“Welcome to Virgin Transmorf. Our flight today will commence in 10 minutes… our flight time will be 15 seconds. To expand your experience our cabin crew will demonstrate the various safety features for your comfort. For our virgin travellers we are pleased to announce that there will be no tedious movie re-runs and no rehydrated excuses for meals. For those who had wished to drown their sorrows en route our cabin crew will be providing information iPads where you will find the directions to all the local bars at your destination. Our destination today is… Port… Douglas… We are sure that you will enjoy your flight and thank-you for choosing Virgin Transmorf.”
“Statistically speaking, flying has always been the safest form of transport. Scientifically speaking, Transmorfing is a far more sound approach. Of course, there are no statistics, because no one has ever actually died… and it is better to relax and to be in contact with as few disparate surfaces as possible.”
Emma’s eyes ceased flitting about maniacally for the first time since she had been led to her chair and seated. It was not the world’s most comfortable chair, but it did recline and it did have padded arm rests, so it was more than sufficient for such a short flight. Emma’s eyes veered to the left sharply, but there was no embodiment to that voice that had disturbed her concentrated panic. Her eyes moved slightly south and eventually discovered the source of that not so comforting discourse. The small boy that they had emanated from was probably no older than ten. He was dressed quite formally in a shirt and a tie with a bowl cut for a fringe.
“Not quite what you expected?”
“How do you do that?”
The young boy, who was until now looking at her hands quite inquisitively, now gave her a blank look… and the eyes rarely lie in such cases…
“How do you do that talking without moving your lips thing? Is that another new scientific development I’ve missed? Can you really throw your voice or is that a psychic thing?”
“That’s E.S.P. and I was the one who answered you… I’m Ron, Lachlan’s father. He tends to surprise most people in general. He’s a little advanced if you know what I mean… IQ of 159.”
“Noooo… this little one… shouldn’t you be playing football or something?”
“No… I’m going to a conference for child geniuses. This is the first time we could afford to travel to one outside of Melbourne. Are you travelling alone?”
“Well, yes… it’s not as if I was expecting to talk to anyone… 15 second flight. My friends took the deluxe Transmorf flight… drinks and nibblies before and after!”
“Oh… I’m not allowed to drink alcohol!”
“I’m not surprised.”
“Good afternoon, I’m your chief flight attendant today. You may call me Patrice, though I do go by other names depending on my mood. For those of you who have never flown conventionally and now probably never will, Virgin Transmorf would like to simulate the act for you as part of our in-flight service. Following the simulation, please remain seated in your allotted position for your Transmorf flight.”
Emma’s eyes widened again and she raised her eyebrows at Lachlan who, judging by the anticipation in his eyes, had never flown conventionally. Emma had. She had flown to Australia from her native England two and a half years before. That had taken 22 hours over two calendar days. She had been jetlagged for four days, but that wasn’t why she was still in Australia. She had only been able to afford a one way ticket back then… and that was $1,200-00 AUD. She had intended to work her way around, but the after effects of the G.F.C. she was trying to escape in the U.K. had followed her relentlessly Downunder. She had survived quite well with her backpack for a friend. Her accommodation consisted of couch surfing mostly and seeking out student parties for food and drink, spare beds and other mind bending pick-me-ups. She had travelled widely despite the budget restraints, yet she had failed to save enough money to fly home and as yet she had failed to make it to Far North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef… she was about to rectify this.
An orsum party was expected tonight in Port Douglas and she had been promised plenty of drinks… the girls had planned a big night and she was not about to say no to any likely Aussie stud who was willing to provide her with a bed for the night. Emma considered young Lachlan’s reason for travelling to Far North Queensland; she had never been to a conference and she had no idea what her IQ was, although she had managed her G.C.S.E. successfully. She had no particular ambition beyond that, but she did think she would go back to college one day.
There was a noise outside. It sounded like the slamming of a large door… the luggage compartment. There was a slight rumbling noise outside. Emma raised her eyebrows at young Lachlan again, as the Transmorf pod now shuddered a little. Their seats were vibrating now and then they began to tilt. The passengers were all suddenly lurched back in their seats and then the rumbling below them stopped… they were airborne in another time. The seats eventually levelled out, the pod lights flickered on and a light smattering of applause broke out somewhere in the rear.
“It wasn’t that good.”
“No, but it was pretty authentic. You’ll have to show your children DVD’s of real planes.”
“I won’t have any children… there’s too much to do, too many things to learn.”
“OK then – so many girls to miss out on all your charms… and I thought it might have been all the parties you were planning on!”
“I don’t have birthday parties… so many candles… so much excess carbon for no reason.”
“What about presents?”
“I still get presents.”
“Are they all green?”
“No, my microscope was black and silver!”
Emma could see that she wasn’t going to win this argument and she didn’t really care. In fact, Lachlan was already a distant problem in the fog of reality. Emma had more important things to think about… like the size of the shot glasses in Port Douglas for instance… she had heard that everything in Far North Queensland was big.
“Cabin doors secure… safety straps locked in… cabin crew exit the pod…”
Emma closed her eyes slowly now. She was not as stressed as she had been even if her fingers still had an unhealthily close relationship to the padded arms of her Transmorf chair. The lights in the Transmorf pod dimmed beyond her eyelids. She felt a tingling sensation on her left hand, but it wasn’t the Transmorf process, it was Lachlan’s hand… he was comforting her the only way he could… he had confidence in the technology.
There were no whirring sounds or flashing lights. There was barely a breath; most of the passengers were holding theirs.
Emma opened her eyes now and the room around her began to blur. She quickly closed them again. If this was going to be her last vision she would rather envision the row of shot glasses awaiting her on some nondescript Port Douglas bar.
Emma felt warm now, in her stomach at first, and then the warmth radiated out along her limbs to her very toes and fingertips. Her hair felt like it was being tizzed with a curling wand while her ears felt as if she had just spent a night watching AC/DC live. She felt light, airy even, as if she was an Aero and she could no longer feel the touch of the boy next to her or the seat below her…
“I don’t care how much it costs, I want those bloody parts delivered today… got it!”
“What was that?” The thought was there, but Emma could no longer verbalize her concerns…
“The Prime Minister delivered an ultimatum to the Opposition today as the Opposition spokesman for Climate Change was ejected from …”
“Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours…”2.
“…Cotchin takes the ball out of the pack for the Tigers and drives it long to Rieeeewoldttt!!!”
“We’re here now, Miss… you can unbuckle yourself and leave the pod. Virgin Transmorf hopes you had an enjoyable flight.”
Emma’s eyes flashed open, but her vision was slightly blurred. It was as if the molecules in her pupils were still banding back together… they weren’t… her vision was fine, yet the vision before her was mostly alien. Sure she was surrounded by dozens of people reclining in chairs, but these chairs were far more comfortable than she remembered… sumptuous even… and the walls of the pod were filled with gigantic plasma screens that were flashing gorgeous 15 second bursts of Queensland… beautiful one day, perfect the next!3.
“The big city terminals are as cheap as the Transmorf flight, but our destination is fabulous as there is only one generic Transmorf terminal to be morphed into. There wasn’t even an airport here before Transmorf…”
“…so this was built especially.”
“That’s right. You read the handbooks too!”
“No… I don’t think so, Lachlan.”
Emma didn’t really remember leaving her chair or even disembarking from the Transmorf pod. She didn’t remember making her way to the luggage carousel, but there she was… some things hadn’t changed, although the luggage had also been Transmorfed to Port Douglas. She had a vague recollection of being told to come here by a friendly face who wished her luck as she waved her goodbye… and there were the newly weds drunk with love and a future of condoned sex. She felt uncomfortable, uneasy, yet she couldn’t put her finger on the cause of that… had Tiger Jack Riewoldt kicked that goal… and there were her friends, bright and bubbly with drinks in their hands awaiting her beyond the luggage carousel, waving wildly.
Emma spotted her bright green and grey backpack on the carousel and grabbed at it between two fellow travellers who were guarding the luggage return jealously despite the fact that their bags were nowhere to be seen. She didn’t unfold the shoulder straps; she just dragged the backpack along by its handle. This was her tortoise shell, her whole world. She had posted boxes of goodies back home to her folks, but this was it in regards to Australia.
There was no customs here, just a safety barrier. The International Port was in another adjacent building. Emma threw her arms around her three friends spilling precious champagne in the process. They were all Australian girls that she had latched onto along the way. Chloe was from Melbourne, Toorak to be precise… her fashion sense was born out of Spring Carnival race days usually, but today she sported a newly acquired Queensland singlet top, a pair of the briefest cuffed jean shorts and the obligatory thongs… complete with daisies. Sondra was from Sydney. She was a little more down to earth, but she had been partying in Melbourne over the summer. She had met up with Chloe on a cruise to Fiji a year ago and although she had planned to turn her attention to her fledgling legal career in the New Year that was currently permanently on hold. Fleur was originally from Tasmania. Her parents had made a fortune in a two dollar retail shop chain. They had invested in Melbourne real estate which included an apartment on the fringe of the CBD overlooking the Yarra River… that was now Fleur’s base and of occasionally Emma’s when she wasn’t at Chloe’s. Fleur and Sondra could have been Chloe’s clones dress wise and they were all quite blonde, sucked in and pushed out, but Fleur was a bottle blonde. Her favourite question was, How’re my roots? The answer to this question was many and varied depending on the previous night’s escapades!
“Was that or-sum or what! How was the cheap version, Emma… we got here an hour ago!”
“Sure Chloe, but your flight did leave an hour before mine remember!”
“Would you call it a flight or a Morf? I have no idea… we’ve already had too much bubbly… and those pods, how creepy were those? Now I know why they gave us alcohol before hand!”
“What do you mean pods? We only had one!”
“They squeezed you all into one, no wonder it was cheap. How many people were on that flight?”
“I dunno, a few hundred!”
“I dunno… you’re such an Aussie for a Pom, but one pod… seriously?”
“It was a pretty big pod… why, how many did you have?”
“We had one pod each. It was like some creepy mass upright funeral if you ask me, but they were comfy, all velvet lined with cushions and stuff. Did you really only have one pod?”
“One big pod with lots of comfy reclining seats. They even simulated a traditional air flight before they morphed us up here from Melbourne. Yes I know, even Transmorf have cattle-class… but it was only $25-00 return.”
“We could’ve spotted you the $150-00 return flight you know… champagne for all… here, we stole you one… cheers!”
Emma accepted her pilfered glass gladly … alcohol was alcohol after all… even if she had nowhere to stay unless the girls could steal her into one of their rooms unnoticed. It was time to find a bar and that row of shot glasses. She had no jetlag whatsoever and it was 29°C… time to bare some skin…
* * *
Emma opened her bloodshot eyes to the sky and the northern sun flooded in burning the back of her brain until she slapped her hands to her face and rubbed wildly. It was not a successful choice. Emma’s fingers were full of sand. She attempted to sit up, but she was pinned to the ground. She wiped her face with her arm, rubbed the sand off her hands and tried again. She could see now although her vision was mightily impaired and she knew why. She reached down to pull the baggage that was pinning her to the ground off of her stomach and found it to be a fine strapping Aussie bloke, not unlike the one she had dreamt of during her Transmorf flight. He was barely dressed, but then so was she. Had she picked him up last night? Had he offered to put her up for the night as she had required? Had she been thrown out of the girl’s beachside accommodation? She knew that the answer to all these questions was yes. Had she had sex with this guy and if so, what the hell was his name?
Emma pushed her Aussie hero off her stomach and shook her head. Was she shaking sense into herself? She may need to. Her vision was now returning and she did not like the look of this guy’s accommodation and then she remembered something… she didn’t have sex with him because he was trying to bot a room and a bed out of her… sucked in Emma she thought. They had ended up on a beach somewhere not very happy with each other, quite drunk and obviously unable to save the situation, so they didn’t. How he had ended up using her as a pillow was a mystery that she wasn’t pleased about, but as her vision sharpened up she realized that the beach they had crashed on was quite stunning. Emma stood up and stretched out her arms, legs and neck. Before her was an expanse of beach that was virtually flat and straight along the coast. It stretched out for four miles (or so she thought seeing as it was called Four Mile Beach.) The sand on the beach was the purest white that Emma had ever seen; a far cry from the pebbles of her local beach back in the south of England. The edge of the beach was fringed by a layer of palm trees perfect to behold as they leaned over her, while its northern end featured a large promontory which was crowned by a number of fabulous looking houses amidst more exotic trees. Emma was in heaven… she had been Transmorfed to heaven… and that was not beyond the technology according to the advertisements and the handbook!
Emma kicked sand on the face of her beau. He stirred a little before rolling over in the sand and fading away again. Emma began to realize that she had not drunk as much as she had thought; that her seediness was probably due more to the situation of her slumber and to her overall lack of sleep. She left her beau and ventured out across the beach. This was July – no stingers in the water. She wasn’t sure how she knew this, but she felt quite safe with the knowledge and she waded in knee deep. The sand beneath her feet was soft and the water was balmy. It lapped gently around her legs and her body came to life. No jetlag… how was that, how could they do that so successfully in such a short time? But what was that… that… interference during the Transmorf flight? Did someone leave a radio on?
Emma’s attention was drawn to a splash at her side. She was never really a water person and any unusual sound could signify something alive in the water and she knew that there were lots of things alive in these waters – sharks, crocodiles, jellyfish… Her eyes traced the source of the noise across the sparkling water and she discovered a tennis ball floating beside her. She picked it up and shook it out…
“Can I have my ball back, Miss… oh it’s you… do you remember me?”
“But that can’t be, this can’t be your ball… you don’t play sport!”
“I just thought… it might be fun. And Dad kinda likes it. I think he used to play as a kid.”
“Didn’t you have a conference for gifted under-privileged children with high IQ’s to go to?”
“Sounds kind’ve boring when you put it like that. The other kids were kind’ve boring too. Would you like to play?”
“With you and your dad?”
“And the others.”
Emma turned back towards the beach and realized that about a dozen other children were waiting on her to return their ball.
“That’s not how you play cricket!”
“I know, I’m English… we invented it, remember!”
Emma bounced onto the beach and bowled the ball badly to the batsman who was leaning on his injured cricket bat near a makeshift set of stumps that possessed no bails and were by no means vertically parallel. They reminded her more of the tri-stones in the stone circle that surrounded the cairn at Corrimony near Loch Ness in Scotland. She had been there with her folks when she was little yet she had never thought of that odd and ancient place since, but now… how odd.
Emma spent the next few hours playing beach cricket with Lachlan and his newly acquired friends. She quickly discovered that although he had a brilliant mind, his ball skills were quite ordinary. Fortunately Emma was more than proficient and became a welcomed member of his team. She shared lunch slightly guiltily with his parents on the beach before they headed back to the conference. Surprisingly, Lachlan was not particularly keen to go and neither was she…
* * *
“Orsum parte, Em… can’t believe we didn’t find this place days ago… nice revealing black top BTW, but where’s your sexy little black dress?”
“I took it off.”
“Took it off or did that guy take it off you out back!?!”
“I didn’t come here to get laid by every guy with a six pack every night, Chloe!”
“Sorry, but I thought you did. Isn’t that what you’ve been doing let’s see, all Spring Carnival and all summer… isn’t that why you’re here? So, what’s with the top?”
“I’m working here.”
“I’m working… I need the money.”
“And how’m I s’posed to go out onto the reef with you guys tomorrow without it?”
“No… you… won’t! This is my holiday, not a charity. I worked here last night and the night before.”
“You worked here two nights and you didn’t tell us about the place!”
“And you didn’t miss me, did you?”
“Well, I had wondered…”
“If I work tonight I won’t have to take the boat out to the reef and I’ll be able to snorkel, maybe even dive and even eat!”
“Then you’ll come with me and the girls… well get back to work then. Serve up those drinks, wiggle that cute little Pommie arse, flash those boobies and rack up those tips!”
Emma did just that. She also added another asset that Chloe had failed to mention, her English accent and oddly it was the asset that served her best. She lost count of the times she was asked, “Where you from Luv, Transmorf from the ol’ dart did you?” Of course she hadn’t come from England via Transmorf, but the inference was more than useful.
The next day Emma rocked up to the Port Douglas Marina. She browsed quickly through the boutique shops that were crammed into the old refurbished wharf sheds, but she didn’t find anything sufficiently cheap enough to warrant a purchase. The travel may have been cheap, but the tourist traps and the accommodation were still mighty expensive. She headed outside next, it was 28°C and she had braved a bikini with a t-shirt on top and found that she was not alone in this attire. She flip-flopped her way along the boardwalk that was the wharf itself, surrounded as it was by a plethora of boats and followed her instincts as to where she was to go. She had no real concept of boating or wharfs or fishing which she now found odd considering she was from an island nation whose ancestors had invaded by sea. Fortunately today, the one thing that made any sense to her in this alien environment was the bright blue and yellow signs that were like cookies in a forest of carbon fibre masts… Haba Dive. These led her to her destination, a large catamaran painted in the same bright colours. Emma did not like boats and the thought of being on one for an hour and a half on a windy day out on the open ocean was an anathema to her.
“Are you joining the Haba Dive cruise today, Miss?”
“Leave your shoes here, pass your ticket to Andre and they’ll fit you for diving and snorkeling gear on board.”
Emma followed these instructions and soon found herself on board, but even whilst docked the boat rocked for her and yet she hadn’t been drinking that much lately. It was just boats. Chloe and the other girls were nowhere to be seen, so Emma hooked up with a cute deck hand who assisted her with some fins, a mask and snorkel set. She braved a cup of tea and a muffin, hired an underwater camera and wandered the ship’s decks just to while away the time. She hadn’t been this early for anything like ever.
Chloe and the other two girls eventually showed up five minutes before their launch time, giggled through various goggles, snorted through their snorkels and fumbled with their fins. This was going to be a long trip if they didn’t get their shit together. It didn’t help that the boat was quite full now… travel was cheap everywhere since the advent of Transmorf and tourist meccas like Queensland were drawing unimaginable crowds even during recessions. The basic reef visit tickets began at $15-00 nowadays. Emma had added the snorkel package to that, but had fallen short of cash to add a beginner’s dive.
“Welcome to Haba Dive ladies and gentlemen. Our launch time approaches, so if you would all assemble below deck we will prepare you for your trip to the outer reef. Could all those with the cheaper packages please assemble in the dining area… all passengers with deluxe packages should make their way one level further down.”
“That’s us, you coming Em?”
“No, I didn’t get the deluxe package, you know…”
“OK, bye… see you on the reef.”
Sondra and Fleur bowed their heads a little, waved silently and followed Chloe down below. Chloe could be like that, insensitive, but then Emma could have swallowed her pride… something she had been good at back in Melbourne, something they doubted she had back in the U.K. Emma understood their reactions more clearly now than she ever had anyone’s before. In years gone by not being in on the inner circle would have distressed her terribly; today she just turned her back on the lower stairwell and assumed her designated seat.
“People might begin to talk if you keep following me around like this!”
Emma caught the droll little alien boy’s face between both hands and gave him his first kiss smack on the lips. She had never been so glad to see any nerd. He turned bright red and stayed that way and that was when she realized that there was more than embarrassment behind this moment.
“First time on the beach. Spent hours playing cricket and my sun block wore off. 30+ and still…”
“How do you think they measure that? Do you think they put someone out in the sun for hours naked with different levels of sunscreen on different parts of their body?”
“I don’t know.”
“That’s not like you, Lachlan… bet you researched this trip though. Bet you know every fish and every type of coral.”
Emma laughed and kissed him again whilst waving happily to Lachlan’s parents who were in the seats immediately behind them. She then reclined in her comfortable chair and closed her eyes as the cabin lights were dimmed. Lachlan held her hand as he had a few days before, but she was no longer a virgin at this Transmorf travel. She was far more relaxed this time and she attempted to vacate her mind although there was one nagging thought; she was yet to experience the deluxe treatment.
The same warm feeling meandered around her midriff for a few seconds before radiating outwards to the tips of fingers and the far point of every hair on her regularly manicured body. On the deck below Chloe, Sondra and Fleur were standing upright in their individual pods having drunk their complimentary champagne and eaten their canapés. Ten seconds later they were all some 80 kilometres out into the Coral Sea on Agincourt Reef. Their destination rocked gently from side to side, but for all intents and purposes it seemed like they hadn’t moved.
Emma opened her eyes slowly as the cabin lights came up. She could see quite clearly out of the window from her seat. The luxury yachts and the variety of other shipping that had hemmed in their catamaran at the Port Douglas Marina had vanished. All she could see now was the kilometres of blue sky which melted into the kilometres of ocean that she could see below it before they merged at the horizon. Below her millions of tropical fish and coral polyps awaited her pleasure…
April 12th, 2011
(Approximately 7:31 pm)
“Can you guys shut up!?!”
“It’s only a TV show, Kim and it’s American and we all know it’s not that realistic, scientifically speaking.”
“And when did we science nerds ever get to have a laugh along with people pretending to be science nerds on an actual hit show?”
“Point taken… the cone of silence shall be deployed immediately.”
Kim sat back in her arm-chair and re-focused on The Big Bang Theory, her favourite show. She rarely watched TV and watching amongst John’s nerdy friends was not an ideal forum, but this was a rerun that she had seen before. In fact, she had the first three series on DVD, but there was nothing quite like a random episode chosen out of sync and out of context by some faceless TV executive. As for her house-mate John, he could be an arse, especially around his friends; fortunately there weren’t many of those. There was no doubt that he could also be brilliant on any given day and he was a passable lover on the odd occasion as she required. Kim half suspected that he dipped his wick elsewhere on other occasions, but that wasn’t a huge concern… what man didn’t? Kim wiped her mind of domestic concerns, leant back and tuned into Sheldon…
Sheldon: Here’s the problem with teleportation.
Leonard: Lay it on me.
Sheldon: Assuming a device could be invented which would identify the quantum state of matter of an individual in one location and transmit that pattern to a distant location for reassembly you would not have actually transported the individual, you would have destroyed him in one location and re-created him in another.
Leonard: How about that.
Sheldon: Personally I would never use a transporter, because the original Sheldon would have to be disintegrated in order to create a new Sheldon.
Leonard: Would the new Sheldon be in any way an improvement on the old Sheldon?
Sheldon: No, he would be exactly the same.
Leonard: That is a problem.
Sheldon: So you see it too! 4.
Teleportation… that was such an interesting concept to Kim. How would the molecules react in such a premise and if you did put them all back together again would they indeed still constitute the same thing? Kim drifted back to the show… it was a double repeat episode. She had them both, she had seen them both and it annoyed the shit out of John.
Kim placated him by allowing him to have sex with her when his friends had left after Top Gear – itself a repeat, but not on its current station! He and his friends watched that while she cleaned up after dinner. He could have cleaned up during Big Bang, but… at least he lasted longer for once which was pleasing, but now she knew he was definitely seeing someone else. Kim stared at the cracks in the lathe and plaster ceiling while John pumped away methodically. At least there would be no wet patch to sleep in as she always made him wear a condom now despite her being on the pill… who knew who he was sleeping with and who they were sleeping with… et al…
Kim didn’t sleep much that night. John snored erratically next to her… a bent septum. The traffic in the street played lights onto the ceiling and breathed life into those wandering cracks making mountain trails and winding motorways, countries and continents, theorems and formulas. The cracks heaved in the lights, like tectonic plates shifting beneath the Earth’s crust and morphing the ocean nearby Japan and crushing it into submission. Why couldn’t they get those people out? Why couldn’t they move them quickly? They had plenty of warning; they caught the tsunami on camera! Why isn’t it that we hadn’t created real safety measures and what was it that we did create these days? Did we create life saving devices, creditable warning systems, non carbon based fuels that were not radioactive… and could we travel as quickly and as far if we did? Would life be less stressful? Would there be more time to invent… wasn’t that what a modern world was supposed to be about? Not newer smaller mobile phones and newer more destructive gaming, and smaller more convenient music players.
Kim never really got to sleep, but she did wake up. What was that about? It was not the first time this had happened to her. Most days and most nights her mind was a perpetual set of interlocking cogs compounding against each other in a never ending stream of consciousness – the human atomic clock powered by an internal sun.
Kim rose early and dressed crudely, she had never been a girly girl and she had other things on her mind this morning, she just didn’t want John to see her naked… he might get other ideas, he was that easily distracted… in fact, that was the only thing that distracted him from his experiments. Kim ran her fingers along the crackled paint of the bedroom door. She had no doubt there was lead in there. This Victorian terrace was a good 130 years old and it had seen little T.L.C. in the previous 60 years… at a guess. Thank God it was a rental. Thank God she was an atheist. Who put these words into the modern vernacular anyway? They were so last century.
Kim picked her way along the hall, stacked high as it was on either side with text books and journals, and turned into the kitchen at its end. It was bare with linoleum flooring and a wicked dip towards the far left hand corner. She doubted there were any solid stumps there, but it was a rental and it was reasonably clean. She sat down at the kitchen table and tugged at some of the recycle paper pile that she kept there for random notation and she began to write… and she wrote feverishly.
John crept into the kitchen an hour and a half later. Kim was pages in by this time. He took no particular notice of her activity; he required coffee… that was his morning thing. He poked a couple of pieces of bread into the toaster, burnt them to a particular level of crisp as charcoal was good for the digestive system and sat down at the table opposite Kim. She hadn’t moved, but her hand had been furtive. It had scribbled another page and continued on as John scraped some margarine onto his blackened toast before he lathered Vegemite on more liberally.
“Giv’us a look… looks like formulas. You been staring at the ceiling cracks again?”
“Was I that bad? I thought I lasted brilliantly last night.”
“You did, you’ve obviously been practicing… a little more attention to detail would be appreciated though.”
John didn’t respond, but he did turn a little red. He focused on Kim’s notes rather than following her lead and he was soon mightily intrigued. He stuffed his toast in his mouth quickly and poured over Kim’s notes, page after page, while she continued writing.
“Where’d this come from then, was I so bad you just wanted to get out of that room?”
“No, didn’t think of it last night. Woke up with it.”
“Think it’s possible?”
“Don’t know… only one way to find out. Hurry up and finish, I wanna get to work.”
“Like you’re dressed. Have you even had breakfast?”
“Don’t want any.”
“You are on a roll, aren’t you?”
Kim nodded impassively. It was difficult to read excitement in her eyes and she knew it. She also knew that this trait made her less of a lover. She was not quite the girl of every guy’s pornographic dreams, but then partnerships were for convenience. She and John suited each other in this respect. They had a similar education, worked in the same area of expertise at the C.S.I.R.O. labs in Clayton which was not particular close to home, but neither of them had wanted to ditch their student accommodation from their university days. Despite their obvious intelligence and Kim’s desire for excellence, oddly they both had fairly low expectations in the more personal aspects of life.
Kim wasn’t thinking about any of these personal aspects of life as the tram rattled gently beneath her on its way into the city. They had a train to catch after this so they came well prepared. John sat beside her as he usually did earphones in position iPod on max, but his focus was still on Kim’s notes. Neither of them had showered, they had just thrown some clothes on as they usually did; there was no obvious dress code beneath a lab coat. John was making his own additions to Kim’s notes now as she wrote on. He still didn’t believe in the calculations, she hadn’t used any tables or a calculator, but he did believe in the possibilities… her mind was quite good that way.
“You know you can’t do this at work, Kim.”
“They have everything we need for the experiments.”
“And then they’ll own it.”
“If we document and publish it all we’ll have all the kudos and we’ll have work for life anywhere we want. What scientist can say that these days? There’s no money in what we do and there never will be unless we have an original idea, but we can live quite comfortably… so what is it to be John, comfortable or mentally adventurous?”
John knew she was right, scientists were so poorly appreciated. Web page designers made hundreds more per hour and what did they create… a phone book! Who did they save… only time… and that was only if their page was properly marketed on the various search engines and well thought out which few were. Unfortunately, so many dodgy websites bought their way up the lists of search engines that it was becoming increasingly difficult to trust the order of the search results you were offered… unless of course you really did want to buy an anti-virus program or a penis enlarger.
The research facility where they both worked was on the fringe of a leafy Melbourne suburb about 20 kilometres from the C.B.D. It was quite a modern facility if not quite the most up to date, but it was a government facility. Public service was always more relaxed in regards to work ethos, but then there was the politics… Kim had never been very good at that aspect of the job. John had protected her somewhat in this regard. He was so much better at the mooching and not so good at the science. He pulled Kim up as she fumbled to retrieve her security pass. He often did at this point, before the CCTV cameras, before the traffic congestion of co-workers. She enjoyed the mock secrecy; the stolen moment effect… but it was not as if there was a rule preventing them from cohabiting, this was just their own private rule. It was during moments like this that she realized there was more of a romantic in her than she cared to admit.
“I think… I think we should keep this to ourselves for a bit, to let us get all the ideas into proper prospective.”
“Before someone else blunders in and takes over.”
“I did think about that. We can work on it during lunch and after work.”
“Do you think you can really hold on ‘til lunchtime?”
“No, but then I am running an experiment today which requires no hands on, so I can imagine and write all morning while that experiment runs itself.”
“You are quite brilliant sometimes, Kim.”
John leant in and kissed her warmly on the lips. There it was… the pay off... that little physical acknowledgement that he often gave her… and didn’t she enjoy it. That moment got her through her daily setup routine and gave her the patience to think about the approach she might take with her little side project. She didn’t see John again until lunchtime and by then she was already preparing experiments in her mind based on the theories she had supposed. She was so organized that she already had a work schedule set up in a private calendar which separated her days between government work and private work.
John handed her a juice box and a sandwich. He knew that in such a mood Kim was like a dog with a bone, that food would become secondary until she solved the problem… and then she would go without again until she solved the next problem. He unwrapped her sandwich, broke a bit off and poked it in her mouth. Kim smiled briefly and continued working. John began flicking through her notes next. They had now been typed and she had begun to collate and sort them. She also had organization charts which he also glanced over briefly, but he kept each paper in its respective pile. Kim allowed him to forage because she trusted his opinion and his ability to adhere to her system.
“It’s amazing what four hours of organization can do to a stream of thoughts like that. You’re not being too ambitious with your timetable are you, Kimmy?”
“I thought that, but then when I thought about the infinite possibilities of this, the ramifications for societal changes, the impact on our Earth… I have an entire pile of notes there dedicated to that.”
“Yes, I saw that, but one has to have a viable working prototype before one can consider those possibilities.”
“Hence my tight schedule... it’ll force me to push the boundaries. I’ve even begun a journal and an online blog to gather ideas from the scientific community.”
“Do you think the blog’s that good an idea… what if some bastard steals the idea?”
“Oh dear, they wouldn’t, that’s not ethical… they might, mightn’t they… I’ll close that then, must do that now.”
Kim flipped open her laptop while John poked another morsel into her mouth…
June 30th, 2012
“No, that’s mine… You don’t get to touch that. You don’t get to read my personal files!”
“There are no personal files here, Kim. This is all Government property. Every piece of paper, every drop of ink and every thought that you think within these walls… they are all Government property!”
“Just try and take it, Mr. Jenkins… that’s my own private work completed on my own time in my own head… and that is my space… mine! Just you try touching it again… just try!”
“Don’t be so stupid, put that down… put it down you stupid woman, put it…”
Kim couldn’t put it down and she couldn’t let him touch it. John stood on the far side of the laboratory frozen to the spot. If only he was the only one in the room, but there were three others… three other witnesses. Kim’s files lay strewn across the lab between where she stood and where Mr. Jenkins cowered. Her private filing cabinet, not Government Issue, lay on its side, but that was of little relevance. The only thing that was relevant at this moment was the microscope she was brandishing above her head.
There was a horrible moment where it teetered and Kim almost lost her footing. She always wore flats and this assisted her at this particular moment. She steadied, microscope still in hand and Mr. Jenkins relaxed. His fingers, so tense and so rigid a few moments before, were now drumming impatiently on the bench beside him. His suit hung loose on his flimsy frame dominated as it was by his grotesquely ostentatious red bow tie. Everyone else in the room wore lab coats. He was as out of place as his boggle eyes which always seemed as if they were about to burst… and they were no different now, clinging precariously to their sockets by the wicked squiggle of veins that pulsated on their perimeter. Kim’s eyes were equally as intense, but bloodshot and weary from overwork and constant failures. Her eyes rarely expressed this much, yet as wild as they were, Jenkins misread them. He had relaxed. He blinked first and the microscope came down on his head. He was about to blurt out, “That is Government property!” Instead, his head spurted out blood.
John remained anchored to his spot across the lab while the accompanying lab-coated witnesses spread out frantically across the room. Blood gushed from Mr. Jenkins’ head as his legs crumpled beneath him forcing him to catch his head on the edge of the bench he had been leaning on. The bench caught on the wound and tore his balding scalp, dramatically exaggerating the original wound. Kim raised her hand again, but it never came down. It was now restrained by two of the lab-coated witnesses – two of her colleagues. She was quickly forced to the ground. The two had acted out of self preservation more than anything and the third was now roughly bandaging Mr. Jenkins’ head with her lab coat, but not out of sympathy… just to quell the flow of blood; the sight of it made her sick.
“For Christ’s sake, John… ring the bloody security guards, we can’t hold her down forever and that bastard needs an ambulance!”
Kim was writhing beneath her two colleagues now. They had wrenched the microscope from her grasp with a great deal of luck. They were both heavier than her, but they were losing their grip as her arms flayed about. Surprisingly she laid no blows on them and she made no headway at escape, she was clutching at other straws… clutching at a year’s work, a lifetime of ideas and every fibre of her current being. She was desperately attempting to collect her notes… her notes!
The security guards swept in and cleaned her up. They were followed closely by two paramedics who cleaned up Mr. Jenkins. John kept to the wall and watched the proceedings from a distance. Besides his phone call to security begging for an ambulance he had been no more than a fly on the wall during this drama and he intended to keep it that way. The wall was white, as was his lab coat and the frantic action in the room completed the illusion of invisibility. John was so successful in his endeavour that the Paramedics switched off the light in the lab as they exited the room with Mr. Jenkins.
John slipped off the bench that he had perched himself on.
The wall behind him wore his shadow and it expanded in grey as he stepped back into the room. He was completely alone. There were no security cameras in here and the cleaners were not due for a few hours.
Kim’s handy work was all over the floor, some of it splattered with the blood of her victim. John picked up a box of Government files and emptied it across the floor an aisle from the earlier action. There was also blood here. He then very quickly collected Kim’s notes from the floor and threw them into the empty box. There was no time to sort. He then moved in on her private filing cabinet. She had bought it out of her own funds and had had it delivered to the lab. This was not Government property as she had so frightfully espoused, this was private and it required rescuing.
The filing cabinet was empty within minutes. Again there was no system involved. John just filled his box with Kim’s ideas. The final piece of the puzzle lay in her desk which he visited next having carefully vacated the lab. John knew that the pièce de résistance was Kim’s diary, the blog site she had never published and she kept this locked away in her desk. Fortunately, the madness of the day had created an odd set of circumstances which included Kim not locking her bottom drawer because of the distraction of Mr. Jenkins’ raid. John tugged on the drawer now and discovered it was open, actually slightly ajar, and empty… god, it was bloody well empty… no, wait… bingo… one diary, one completed puzzle. John did not stay for afternoon tea.
* * *
Sept 10th, 2011:
Footy finals on. John distracted somewhat. He can be such a boy sometimes. Focus John! Three months in and I think I have all the theories in place. John managed to procure a lab and some equipment… time to experiment… so excited!
Johnny flipped the page and then moved onto the next quite quickly following a brief read. There was so much waffle, but she was meticulous. There were annotations in the border that obviously pointed to notations and formulas in other books – all neatly catalogued for future reference. He decided to move forward via Kim’s SIGN HERE tabs… they must have been put there for a purpose, Kim always had a purpose.
Sept 30th, 2011:
Nearly three weeks in… fail, fail, FAIL. Back to the drawing board. Had a new idea last night, thanks cracks… a passive laser light in the fabric of my dreams!
Oct 22nd, 2011:
Failed again. Three weeks now of failures with passive laser.
Oct 24th, 2011:
Something moved! We moved an icy-pole stick… icy-pole stick man tomorrow!
Oct 25th, 2011:
Icy-pole stick man moves, twice! Time to re-evaluate. He was only a single structure inanimate object. Time for organics… roll on apple man!
Nov 1st, 2011:
Apple man is juice, but we did get the core! Need to redevelop the matrix. More cracks to interrogate tonight. John’s interest was piqued again today. His patience with me is waning. Must shower. Will have to offer him sex tonight. Wonder if he’ll last long enough for the cracks to come alive?
Nov 15th, 2011:
Apple man lives! Braved a further experiment – apple man and icy-pole stick man… I now have an apple icy pole! Fuck… sorry. Need that shower. Can’t remember my last. John’s sniffing around again. Has it really been two weeks? Jenkins was asking questions today about government property, cheap bastard, we’re only using power and think how much we’ll save!
Dec 15th, 2011:
Decided to work through summer holidays; lab is to be closed down for three weeks. God bless the public service and the public servant mentality. Another apple icy pole today. John’s begun to call me popsicle… his popsicle that he wants to slurp all over… urgh! Time to endure another lay back and think of England. Where’s a girl’s period when she needs it!
John smiled. He knew she wasn’t really into it as much as he was. He wasn’t sure if it was a guy thing, but he did enjoy her amongst others. At least she didn’t complain… well she did in here, but then this was her private diary. Who didn’t complain in their diary… in their own private head space? Well, he didn’t… he didn’t write one, but he could see sense in her frustration. He was feeding her by hand at lunch times again by this stage. He wasn’t sure she even noticed. The Christmas holidays couldn’t have come more quickly… Kim’s government work was suffering badly. John flipped her diary to the next sign here and read on…Dec 25th, 2011:
Moved a block. Moved two blocks. Moved two blocks stacked one atop the other. Inverted the blocks in the next move. John will be so excited. Wonder how dinner with his folks is going? Wonder how dinner with my folks is going? Back to fruit tomorrow and then fabrics, must try live subject soon… the matrix is more solid than ever.
Jan 22nd, 2012
What a day. What a day. John was here again. Always giving me snacks. I’ll get so fat. How we danced around the lab. Wooden blocks, various fabrics – natural and man-made… and fruit! It was like a children’s game. Try that, try this, try them both… buzzer! Just couldn’t do that… the matrix just spread, or was it a lack of processing power? Could it only ever be an object of similar properties? Must contain the matrix… control the bounce… move to and from single points of reference!
March 19th, 2012:
I called it a TransPod, but John said that Apple would sue us. I didn’t care. It contained the matrix at each point of the transfer. It was clumsy, but it was my creation and it worked. Refinement would come. John dragged me into the shower tonight. I thought he wanted sex, kinky like; he just stripped off my clothes and locked me in. That’s when I saw the sores. They did not wash off, but the matrix worked… from one TransPod to the other… fabric, wood, plastics and organics. Tomorrow… mixed test.
March 20th, 2012:
Apple and icy pole stick men test. Transfer complete! No splice obvious at all. Plastics and organics, fabrics and organics, wood and plastics and organics… all tested… successfully! Time for live subjects… three months behind schedule.
March 31st, 2012:
First chance to use lab in nearly two weeks. Supervisor, that bastard Jenkins, sniffing around trying to see what we’re up to. He’s the kind of guy who likes to take the credit for the work of his juniors. John has been good at diverting his attention, but he got awfully close today. Must transfer filing cabinet and notes back home, it’s too dangerous now! First experiment with live subject today. Started with an ant… complete success once it was dead! The damn thing just moved around too much with all those legs while it was alive. Attempted a cricket next. Same problem with movement, but again transferred it successfully dead. Decided to move on to Jackie… my beloved guinea pig… how appropriate! Gave Jackie a mild sedative and strapped him into TransPod mark II. I would have loved to have made it out of glass to see the transfer happen… to see it with my own eyes. It was just like Schrödinger's cat really. We ran the experiment with Jackie locked in the TransPod and then we waited. Opening the adjacent TransPod was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My poor Jackie. Strapped into that enclosed space all alone. I looked at John; I could see the anxiety in his eyes. He knew how I’d be if I lost my Jackie. I opened the TransPod lid, it squeaked… no, Jackie squeaked… Jackie made it – from TransPod to TransPod! It worked!!! I cried for a day and Jackie nearly died because I didn’t feed him… he’s such a pig!
April 30th, 2012:
The end of a month of failures. Well, perhaps it wasn’t that dramatic, I’m tired, my day work is suffering, fuck it all to hell. Sorry. In the end failure was what it amounted to, but there was a moment. We had completed the bigger TransPod… mark III. We transferred a cat, a dog… as noted… all seemed successful until the big test – today’s test, transferring two cats! They weren’t ours, there was no emotional attachment, they came from the pound… death row! Opening the TransPods was less difficult, but I still made John do it this time. He smiled at first as he opened the lid; the cats were alive, sedated slightly, but alive. Then I thought his look changed – I think he was fucking with me. Again, sorry. He took out the first cat and handed it to me. It seemed fine. All its bits were in place. It purred and it clawed at my lab coat. The second cat did likewise. I still don’t understand John’s look, bastard… perhaps he was just surprised. I’m such a bitch! It certainly was a moment, a great moment. Perhaps the month wasn’t so bad after all, just baby steps… I need more sleep!
May 10th, 2012:
John wanted to push on, but I wanted to take a break. It’s been 10 days – 10 days I needed badly, but Jenkins has been around again. I wanted to document it all properly and I wanted to give the cats a few days to show any negative signs. And so I have and the cats are fine. We had pegged today, the 10th, for a duel experiment… multiple subjects of differing composition, but these were to be live subjects! A cat, one of the earlier successes… and a dog! We sedated them both, we strapped them into the same mark III TransPod and we ran the experiment… across the room. I was so confident, our previous test had been successful despite April – failures seemed so important now, especially after or with subsequent successes – they all have a reason, a purpose. I certainly found this principle to be true today. I opened the TransPod across the room. It was awful, the worst splice yet. It was no longer a cat and a dog… it was a combination of both. There were eight legs, two heads, two tails and a horrible mangled cry before it imploded inside out…
May 12th, 2012:
Two days of tears. I haven’t eaten. John picked me up and told me I hadn’t really eaten for 10 months. That I’d lost so much weight and then he told me the thing, bastard, he should have told me earlier. He showed me the pictures of those two cats before I killed one of them. They were before and after shots, the ones we always took. I didn’t see it at first; I hadn’t seen it at the time. I suppose I didn’t really want to see it, but it was there. The cats had exchanged spots. I’ll never know what else they exchanged. I suppose they were so similar, kittens from the same dumped litter, that the exchanged molecules were so minor that it hadn’t affected them. I knew what that meant for all future experiments.
June 28th, 2012:
It’s been six weeks and I’ve documented it all and cross referenced it all in separate volumes… see reference points in the left margin of each diary entry back to the beginning. We booked the lab today for two days time, but this time we organized three colleagues to witness the experiment. A solitary cat from TransPod to TransPod followed by a solitary dog…. Two separate controlled experiments in TransPod mark IV… as it should be, as it should have been, as the matrix was designed.
John did not read any more, but he did rip out the last two months of entries. Everything up to April was relevant to the future, anything beyond that was subjective and he didn’t need subjectivity. He needed a result and a future… and then there was the problem that was Kim…
July 7th, 2016
“Aren’t you going in?”
“I don’t know… I’ve kinda lost the urge.”
“Along with your friends?”
“You know, you should be older Lachlan, it’s kinda creepy with you like this.”
“You really like your friends don’t you… I wish I had friends.”
“Didn’t you meet anyone at the conference?”
“They’re all nerds.”
“And you’re not… no offence.”
“Don’t know. I liked the beach cricket.”
“Oh, so tell me about all those fish that are supposed to be underneath us.”
“I don’t really know anything about fish.”
“You said that before, before the Transmorf, but you seem to mean it now. Didn’t you study up before the trip?”
Emma studied Lachlan carefully. She had never really studied anybody before. He sat there in his board shorts with traces of sunscreen tracking white streaks here and there on various parts of his body. His fins looked way too big and his goggles sat on his head as if he were about to step into a lab and begin a dangerous experiment. His eyes were slightly vacant, not something Emma had noticed in him before. He was examining the boat they were on, the SCUBA equipment that surrounded them, but he wasn’t really taking it all in. Emma reached behind his head as if she was about to perform a magic trick. She plucked a laminated card from behind his head and began to study it.
“Well, I think we should look at this and its companions before we jump in and then we should compare them to what we see down there when we get back.”
“What about your friends?”
“Those bitches will turn on each other before too long. Come on, last one in’s a rotten egg!”
Emma stood up, teetered on her flippers for a few seconds and then she waddled over to the aft of the Haba Dive boat. Lachlan waddled enthusiastically after her. His balance was obviously not used to action, but this didn’t deter him. Emma sat own on the grill that was the far end of the boat. The water lapped playfully underneath her and up through the grill amongst the colourful noodles. Emma tugged out a fluorescent yellow one as Lachlan sat down beside her. She passed the one metre long foam noodle to him, but he rejected it with a that’s way too girly look and tugged on a red one instead.
“Throw it out on the water and jump on it so it’s under your arms.”
“How deep is it?”
“Don’t worry, that thing will keep you afloat and your flippers will propel you through the water, so you don’t even have to swim.”
Lachlan dived in with a fearlessness that defied the 10-15 metres to the sea floor and the thousands of fishy things that lurked in the shadows of the barbarous coral. Emma leapt in after him like a schoolgirl friend, noodle under her arms and hired digital camera strapped to her wrist. They both immediately dipped their heads under the water and breathing through their snorkels they searched the depths of the Great Barrier Reef for things alien to them both. Floating on her noodle and kicking softly with her flippered feet Emma switched on her underwater digital camera. Her first target wasn’t below her as might be expected, it was beside her as she swivelled her head from side to side to find a target. Lachlan loomed large in her lens and she snapped him quickly, capturing him with boggled goggled eyes and a mouthful of snorkel. It was a shot she would always treasure.