Archive for December, 2013

The Causeway – Chapter 4

Posted in science fiction on December 23, 2013 by Alex

THE COMFY CHAIR

 

Water. Hands. Face. Charlie rubbed the smell of death off himself. He found himself in a large suite on the top floor of a building in Sand City. This building wasn’t here six months ago, the last time he was in the area. He could have sworn there was a city regulation against buildings this high. Yet here he was, with a beautiful view of the Monterey Bay that stretched up the coastline all the way to Santa Cruz. He could see a large facility a little less than halfway up the coast. Must be the power plant at Moss Landing. He didn’t remember being able to spot it from a distance, though. It must be twenty miles north of here. Something seriously weird was going on in this town.

 

Shower. Hot water. Steam. This was the headquarters of CTC Industries. Supposedly a huge operation, with factories all over the county producing equipment with names like singularity generators, causal loop detectors, temporal scrubbers and vortex scaffolds. It all sounded like nonsense to Charlie, and when he asked the mystery man in the limo about it all the response he got was “You’ll familiarize yourself with the equipment soon enough. I’m sure the big guy is anxious to give you a tour of the facilities.”

 

Soap. Shampoo. Hair. Eyes. Ouch. Charlie didn’t know what to make of his mysterious new friend. He seemed the sort of person who would happily carry out any task assigned to him by the boss, be it driving a new recruit around in a limo, murdering a policeman, or fetching coffee. He must be the ultimate personal assistant. At one point Charlie asked for his name. “Names are not important,” he said, “it’s probably best you don’t know mine.” Fair enough.

 

Towel. Comb. Mouthwash. Suit. There was a closet full of suits, with a note on the door reading “pick your favorite!” Charlie tried on a random suit from the rack. He wasn’t one for formalwear, and never could tell the difference between a nice suit and a fashion faux pas. The suit he tried on fit nicely, however. Arms and legs just the right length, if a little loose about the midsection. His instructions from the mystery man were to go down to floor 13 when he was ready. He figured he was as ready as he would ever be for a job interview with a boss he didn’t know at a company he had never heard of in a building that seemed to pop up out of nowhere in a town where skyscrapers were never built after almost being killed by a crazed policeman seeking revenge for something that didn’t happen. It’s not like his day could get any weirder, right?

 

The elevator arrived the instant Charlie hit the button. Wow, the penthouse suite had its own dedicated elevator. Why was he receiving the VIP treatment for a job interview? Why did it take all the way until he figured out that the penthouse had a private elevator for Charlie to notice he was getting the VIP treatment? Stop wondering, Charlie. Nothing about today has made even a little bit of sense, and there is no reason to believe that things would start making sense now. Just hang along for the ride.

 

Charlie hit the 13 button on the panel. It beeped at him, and the button promptly disappeared from the panel. Well, it didn’t disappear, exactly. It slid into a hatch in the panel and the hatch closed over it. That’s cute. A building with a secret 13th floor. The door opened and revealed a long hallway with marble floors. The walls were lit up by compact fluorescent bulbs made to look like torches in an ancient dungeon. Each torch illuminated a photograph. Some of the pictures were of people that Charlie didn’t recognize, some were of places that looked vaguely familiar. There was a picture of Candlestick Park, or whatever it was being called these days. Another of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. A nuclear power plant. The facade of the New York stock exchange. Some horse racing track. The last one really caught Charlie’s eye. It was an aerial view of a several mile long building, shaped like an L. This couldn’t be an interferometer, could it? Was that why this company was so interested in him? Had they got ahold of his grant proposal?

 

He approached a large desk in front of a large door. Behind the desk was a little Asian woman. “Are you Dr. Calloway?” Charlie nodded. “Mr. Littlefield will see you now.” The large door opened dramatically on its own. It creaked a little as if struggling against the large swaths of sunlight now pouring through the opening. Charlie never liked dramatic entrances, but even he was impressed by this display. Charlie stepped through the threshold onto the other side.  The door creaked again and shut solidly behind him.

 

A cigar smoking man in his seventies was leaning back in a chair behind an even bigger desk than the one outside, facing away from Charlie, and enjoying his view of the bay. “Have a seat, my boy!”

 

Charlie sat down in an absurdly comfortable chair. The chair seemed to drain all the tension out of Charlie’s body and left him in a blissful state. No, not blissful, but somehow focused, sharp, ready to make decisions and solve problems. Before Charlie could speak up about how amazing this chair was, Mr. Littlefield explained it to him. “The boys in R and D tell me that they had to solve what was previously thought to be an intractable problem in order to design that chair you’re in. They had to figure out how to make it the most comfortable for as many people as possible, while simultaneously helping posture, and blood flow and some other things I can’t recall at the moment. Oh, and this was the tough part: I told them I didn’t want anyone falling asleep in that chair while I’m talking to them. I tend to go on, you see. They somehow designed a material that increases alertness. If I hadn’t seen the results I wouldn’t have believed it myself. Oh, I do tend to ramble a bit in my old age. Forgive my manners, I should properly introduce myself. I’m Tex Littlefield, the proprietor of this establishment, as I like to say. It is an absolute pleasure to finally make your acquaintance.”

 

Mr. Littlefield stuck out his hand. Charlie shook it, and tried not to grimace from the extra hard grip that was squeezing his hand. Normally Charlie would have mumbled something like “nice to meet you, too” back at him, but for some reason Charlie felt that for once on this inexplicable day he would take charge in a situation. “If you really want to hire me, you should call me Dr. Calloway.”

 

Tex took a thoughtful puff of his cigar. “Builds confidence, too! I tell ya son, sorry, Dr. Calloway, that chair has been in here a solid week and I still get surprised at what it can do. I’m gonna have to give the boys in research a raise or something. When this thing hits the market in six months, it is gonna change the world! Hooo-whee!!”

 

Charlie did feel more confident, but was a bit discomfited by the thought that a chair could alter his behavior like this. “What is it that you do here, exactly?”

 

“Ah. Yes. Well, I can understand your curiosity. It has been one helluva morning for you, hasn’t it? Trouble is, and I’ve been warned about this, you are probably not going to believe what this company does. Hell, I didn’t believe it when I came on board last year, I’m still not sure I believe it. So I’m gonna have to ask you to keep an open mind, because we want you to be a major cog in this machine.”

 

Charlie knew what was coming. He supposed he knew all morning long, but simply refused to admit it. “Let me guess, you build new gadgets through the use of time travel. I saw your infomercial this morning. I didn’t believe it then, and I don’t believe it now. But since you’ve treated me so nicely today, I’ll hear you out.”

 

Tex took another puff off his cigar. “Well, I must say that the stories are true, you are a sharp one. Fair enough. Tell you what, after we’re through chattin’ here I will take you on a personal tour of the facilities. All our factories, labs, power centers, you name it. I know you are a scientist, so I can appreciate that you need to see some rock solid evidence before you believe anything so fantastic as commercial time travel. But if you are convinced, you’ve got to agree to come work for us. Deal?”

 

Charlie didn’t see a choice here. If he wasn’t convinced, which seemed likely, then he would just go home and keep searching for a postdoc position or a regular job. But if he was, however crazy that might sound, there must be some fantastic new physics discovered here. Not just fantastic, but mind blowing, Earth shattering, rewrite the textbooks kind of stuff. How could he refuse to be a part of that?

 

“Deal.”

 

 

 

 

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The Causeway – Chapter 3

Posted in science fiction on December 23, 2013 by Alex

DEAD COPS, LIMOUSINE TRUNKS, AND PETER, PAUL AND MARY

 

“Breaking news. Several casinos in Las Vegas filed for bankruptcy today as an unprecedented amount of longshot sports bets came through for big spenders. The casinos were unable to pay the full amount owed to the bettors, and were forced to file for chapter 11 and close down business. A single casino survived what’s come to be known as The Gambling Apocalypse of 2013, a small shop next to McCaren airport called Uncle Ray’s Sports Book. The owners of the bankrupt casinos are crying foul. One former casino executive, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that sports books all over the city were taken completely by surprise by the heavy influx of long odds bets. Hundreds of big money bets came in just minutes before the events took place, and the bookmakers did not have time to adjust the lines accordingly. He went on to say that he hopes the state of Nevada will conduct a thorough investigation of the timing and circumstances of these events, for what just happened is statistically impossible. Gary Schneider, one of the bettors who was able to be paid before the casinos ran out of money, responded by saying ‘nothing is statistically impossible, there are only things that are very, very unlikely.’ We’ll have more as this story develops. Back to KRIP, your home for news, weather, and all the greatest folk songs of the sixties.”

 

How many roads must a man walk down…”

 

Charlie sat in the back of a limousine, trying to wrap his mind around what just happened. How did Officer Snyder know who he was? Why was he so hell-bent on revenge for things that clearly didn’t happen? Why was the police station empty? Shouldn’t it have been bustling with activity? Shouldn’t there have been someone on duty, manning the phones, the dispatch, the jail? There wasn’t even anyone in the jail cell. No drunks spending the night sleeping off a bender, no junkies or thieves or gang members or teenagers arrested for downloading movies. There should have been someone there.

 

The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind…”

 

And then there was this mysterious businessman from CTC Industries who conveniently showed up to save Charlie’s life. Not that he wasn’t grateful, Charlie was moments away from being executed. Though it was disconcerting to sit in the back of a limo while his savior happily stuffed Officer Snyder’s body in the trunk. Was he whistling back there? Was Charlie really about to go on a job interview immediately after such a traumatic experience? Was this really part of a time travel paradox?

 

“The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

 

No. That was stupid. Charlie refused to let his mind go down that road. Charlie was an expert in this area, and knew for a fact that time travel was impossible. Even if it was, the power requirements would be so enormous that it would black out California’s power grid for one measly little two hour trip back in time. That would be a steep price to pay for a little extra sleep. Yet the more Charlie ran Snyder’s words through his mind, the more it seemed he was referring to time travel. No, no, and no. Officer Snyder was simply crazy. Period. End of story. He was looking for someone to blame for the death of a family member or wife or ex-partner or…

 

The mystery man opened the driver’s side door. “How you holdin’ up, Chief? I imagine you’re a bit confused. I suppose that’s only natural.” Words failed to form in Charlie’s mouth. He wanted to say so much, wanted to ask so many questions, but all he could do was stare blankly at the stranger with his mouth hanging open.

 

“Tell you what. I’ll drive us back to HQ where you can clean up and compose yourself. I’ll have to make a pit stop to empty the trunk, of course, but it shouldn’t be more than five minutes out of the way.”

 

Charlie’s jaw started to move up and down. It seemed the speech center of his brain was slowly re-establishing contact with his mouth. Soon he would be capable of grunting in confusion. The mystery man started the limo and casually drove off as a row of police cars passed them in the other direction, filing into the parking lot of the receding police station.

 

“After you regain your faculties and put on a nice, proper suit, I can take you up to meet the head honcho. Man, has he been dyin’ to meet you.”

 

Charlie decided to stop trying to apply reason to this day. He stopped wondering why all these complete strangers were so interested in him, whether they wanted to murder him or give him a job at a company he had never heard of that was claiming to provide the impossible. He stopped trying to apply logic to this chaos. He just leaned his head back and drooled on the black leather seat in the back seat of the limousine.

 

“…The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

 

 

The Causeway – Chapter 2

Posted in science fiction on December 7, 2013 by Alex

THE RIDEALONG

The ride to the police station was an unpleasant one for Charlie. Not that rides to the police station are ever pleasant. Charlie had never taken a ride like this before, but no possible ride in the back of a police car could be worse than this. Sure, he could be maced or be shot and left lying in the back seat bleeding out just to wait to be processed or he could be forced to sit next to a detoxing junkie. That would be terrible, but at least Charlie would have a situation appropriate response ready. He didn’t have an answer for what was happening to him now.

 

“Can you at least tell me why you’re taking me in?” The policeman didn’t answer.  He just huffed. “I haven’t done anything, you haven’t read me my rights, I don’t even know your name so I can report you to your superiors.”

 

The policeman turned around and glared at Charlie. He was somehow able to glare at him for an extended period of time while navigating through traffic at at least forty miles per hour in a residential area. “The name’s Snyder. You won’t forget it. You never do. ”

 

Officer Snyder could not have offered up a more bewildering response. “What the hell does that mean? I’ve never met you before in my life! ”

 

Officer Snyder continued to glare back at Charlie, somehow managing a left turn at a busy traffic light while doing so. “Oh you’ve met me. You just don’t know it yet.”

 

This was not the way a policeman was supposed to behave. Weren’t they supposed to respect peoples’ rights, or at least tell them what they were being hauled in for? They definitely weren’t supposed to drive recklessly without looking while uttering insanely cryptic remarks to complete strangers. That was more of a job for a street preacher at the bus station.

 

Officer Snyder turned his head back to the road just in time to swerve into a parking spot in front of the police station. Somehow the car ended up neatly parked bumper to bumper with police cars front and back. If Charlie wasn’t so frightened at the moment, he would have asked Officer Snyder how he learned to drive like that. All Charlie managed to do instead was swallow loudly.

 

“Last stop Mr. Calloway.” Charlie was experiencing every negative emotion there was to experience at the same time. He was extremely frightened by this madman who had no regard for the rules that the police are supposed to follow. His disregard for the law made Charlie angry. He was confused about just what the hell was happening to him. He was jealous of the frankly magnificent driving ability this crazy man had. His coffee was kicking in and he had to pee, which made him annoyed.

 

Snyder flung open the passenger door of the police car. “Right this way, Mr. Calloway.” He sneered out Charlie’s last name as if he were spitting out sour milk. He was breathing loudly through his nose, causing the bristles in his mustache to vibrate, dislodging crumbs and whatever other snacks he kept stashed in there. He grabbed Charlie by the arm and yanked him out of the car.

 

Charlie was too frightened to resist. Perhaps he was paralyzed by all those stories of police officers waiting for a perp to resist so they had probable cause to beat him senseless. Perhaps this situation was too unusual for a human brain to process in a normal amount of time, causing him to freeze up like an old computer running the latest graphics intensive shoot ’em up game while simultaneously simulating a relativistic many body problem. Perhaps Charlie was simply a coward. In any case Charlie followed him inside the police station.

 

The inside of the station was completely empty.  Most of the lights were off. It was pretty early, only 6:30 in the morning, but there should have been somebody here. Charlie timidly wondered about this. “Where is everybody?”

 

Officer Snyder’s grip on Charlie’s arm intensified. He was being dragged to a little room in the back. Probably an interrogation room. “They’re all late for work.” Snyder was very satisfied with that sentence. It was as if he had been waiting all day just to say it. Charlie once again lost the ability to speak.

 

The door of the interrogation room creaked open. Inside were two wooden chairs facing each other. Snyder threw Charlie onto the far chair, causing Charlie to knock it down. “Sit down, Mr. Calloway, we’ve got some things to discuss.”

 

Charlie picked himself up off the ground, shakily picked the chair up and sat down, not once taking his eyes off of this crazed policeman. “Wh-what do you want to talk about?”

 

Snyder laughed a deep, guttural, evil laugh. “You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting to get you. If I have my way, you won’t ever know. They told me it was impossible. That it would cause problems with some kind of space fabric or something. I just know I have to make all this madness stop before it starts. I have to set the world right again. I have to bring back what was lost, I have to bring her back.”

 

Tears were streaming down Snyder’s face from behind his sunglasses. He slowly pulled his gun from its holster. He brought the barrel up to his lips and he kissed the side of it. Then he pointed the gun at Charlie.

 

Charlie wanted to remind this guy that they had never met, that maybe he was thinking of another guy named Charlie Calloway, that killing someone in cold blood never solved anything, that please, wait a minute, I have to pee. All he managed to do was squirm in place and squeal quietly.

 

“That’s right, squirm you little weasel!” Snyder cackled as he cocked his sidearm. “Nobody will ever know that my actions here today will save the world.”

 

BANG!! BANG!!

 

Charlie fell out of his chair. He frantically checked himself for bullet holes. He thought he found one, but it was just an ordinary hole in the armpit of his shirt. He looked up at Officer Snyder, whose face was suddenly disfigured by exit wounds. Snyder’s body promptly collapsed into a heap on the floor.

 

Behind him was the mysterious businessman from the night before. “So, Charlie. You ready for that job interview?”