Chapter 21


[New readers: to start at chapter 1, click Archives / November 2012 on right hand side]

They stepped out of the lift into a short corridor in the basement. The dark vinyl floor was scuffed but the walls seemed freshly painted under the bright strip lighting. There was a faint smell of disinfectant. On either side of the narrow space were three doors.

Ludovic followed the Professor along the corridor. He glanced at the first door on the left. Through a thin vertical window in the door he could see a rack of computers, green lights flickering. Professor Flatt swiped a card in the lock and opened the third door waving him in.

“This is our main laboratory,” she said.

The room was larger than he expected. Along one side was a series of alcoves with blinds drawn. Ludovic guessed that these were the skylights leading up to the pavement outside. On the opposite side of the space there was a row of adjustable metal shelving, stacked with computers, electronic equipment and flat screens, mostly showing tables of data, but one showing a page of sports news.

in the middle of the room there were several desks and chairs aligned in a loose horseshoe. There was at least one computer or laptop on each desk as well as piles of paper and ring binders. In front of one desk stood a tripod and video camera. A tangle of cables hung down from each desk and trailed dangerously across the floor to a bank of electrical sockets. Boxy air conditioning units hung at intervals from the ceiling.

Facing the desks was another rack of electrical equipment, most of it painted in dull blue and grey. A pair of very heavy looking electric cables disappeared into an industrial switchbox on the wall. Beside the electrical machinery stood a chair on a low wooden box. Ludovic recognised the chair. In Vilnius in the early 1990s many of his friends had coveted such seats for their newly imported secondhand BMWs. It was a Recaro car seat, meant for a rally car, but often installed by less professional drivers. A full safety harness was fitted through the slots at the top and bottom of the seat.

Above the car seat something like an exaggerated white lampshade hung from a very sturdy looking arch of metal strips.

Professor Flatt sat down at one of the desks, shuffled the mouse and tapped her name and password as the computer screen illuminated.

“Please sit down,” she said, pushing back the chair at the adjoining desk.

Ludovic sat. On the desk in front of him was a half-empty coffee cup and several sheets of paper scrawled with diagrams and numbers.

“I imagine that you are familiar with funding challenges facing academic research,” said the Professor, glancing at Ludovic as she clicked on the screen. “Well it is not so different in commercial research. No one wants to spend money on speculation. They only really want to invest once you have found something that is original. They want something that they can patent and turn into a product.”

“Yes,” Ludovic replied. “It’s like that in archaeology. But we never come up with anything that anyone can patent, so they don’t invest.”

Professor Flatt smiled briefly. “We’ve been working on something that is original. It will be very, very valuable. But first we have to prove it.” She tapped on her keyboard. Somewhere on the rack of machinery there was a soft click and something began to hum.

“You look at a lot of history, Dr. Vestas. I’m sure you know how much certain events or certain actions can influence what happens in the future. You have probably wondered what could have happened if something had been slightly different, “ she looked at him. “We are working on changing history.”

Ludovic looked at the screen and then looked at the Professor. “What do you mean? Are you saying that you are changing the records? Changing what we can observe?”

“No,” said Professor Flatt sharply. “I mean that we are changing what happened.”

Ludovic sat straight in his chair.

“Have you ever seen a tornado or a waterspout?” She asked him.

“Not in person,” he replied, “but I’ve seen videos.”

“A tornado is formed when there is a large pressure and temperature difference at different levels in the atmosphere. Air flows rapidly from one level to the other. It spins violently as it moves. But in the centre of the tornado there is a gap, a channel.”

Ludovic looked at her blankly.

“We have found a way to generate a tornado in time,” announced the Professor calmly. “I won’t attempt to explain the physics to you, but it’s as if time today is at a higher pressure than time in the past. We use energy, a lot of energy, to make a vortex and then we drop things down the gap in the middle.”

“What sort of things?” Asked Ludovic.

“Small things at first. Pebbles, sand, plants. Things that people wouldn’t notice. A dog.”

“A dog?!” Ludovic exclaimed. “Did it come back?”

Professor Flatt looked at her screen. Moved the mouse. Clicked twice and replied, “yes. It came back.” She swivelled in her chair to face him. “Alive.”

He stared at her. He could feel his heart pounding. He knew he had to ask.

“Have you sent people?”

Miriam Flatt held his gaze. The machinery hummed on the rack. She nodded.

“Yes, we have sent a person.” She looked back at the screen. “Many times.”

One Response to “Chapter 21”

  1. 1 Becki_Casey

    I wasn’t sure about the story to start with, I’m very fond of your musings and irrelevancies. Consider me a convert! I can’t wait for the next chapter to drop into my in-box every morning now.

    Thanks Alex.

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