Nakarand had been faced and defeated, and the group returned to Earth with Dram-Shara, a missing Ruk scientist and Uentaru, Earth’s real enemy. Now they need to find a way of stopping the Aleph component from tearing the Earth apart and with it all the recursions.
It was an early Summer morning. All over the campus, bird and squirrels were starting their days as Estate Agents check-in for morning shifts or got in a little exercise before work. At the labs, there was a buzz of activity from deep below.
“I’ve been working on the transport. It still needs an energy source and a time to plan…” Hertzfeld, head of the Scientific Department, walked briskly beside his smaller but formidable associate, Dr Peggy Martin.
“Energy source, I have. Time we don’t. Show me your lab.” Peggy displayed the fully charged battery rod, “What were you saying about something coming out of the Earth’s crust?”
“Yes, I have access to quite a few detectors all over the world. With the usual seismic detectors, magnetic and neutrino detectors, the data is incredible. I wanted you to go over it with me.”
“Fine. I’d suggest it has to do with the Aleph component, a piece of old tech lodged in the Earth crust. Uentaru has been feeding psychic resonance to it with the use of Spiral Dust. With the potential power of the component, she was trying to recreate her own lost world.”
“Uh-huh…maybe you should start from the beginning.”
Algernon had become the guardian of the entropic seed by default. He was hoping to talk to Uentaru about its properties and searched for Tobias to smooth the way with her. Unfortunately, Tobias had taken himself off to the dorms and collapsed on his bed, fully dressed. Algernon looked at his bed for a moment, also contemplating a few hours rest. Turning Nakarand’s digestive juices to acid exhausted him more than he let on. He swayed on the spot, clutching the entropic seed like his child. In the end, it was the seed that won out as it almost slipped out of his tired arms, waking him with a start. Heavily he turned and left the dorm determined to do what he could without Tobias and headed for the library.
The warm, quiet environment of the library was not conducive to staying awake. Neither was the resource material which seemed to consist mostly of fringe conspiracy theory articles from magazines such as the New Aquarian. However, Algernon persevered. On the entropic seed itself, almost nothing, a definition similar to that Uentaru had provided inside Nakarand. A powerful item of almost unlimited potential. He did confirm what she had to say about it powering the Aleph component, which was something. Her information could be relied upon if she were willing to tell the truth…or compelled.
On the Aleph component, he found almost nothing but near science fiction. In this case, it seemed, that they happened upon the truth didn’t excuse the articles lack of evidence for their assumptions. Many believed that something, not another proto-planet, hit Earth, forming the moon billions of years ago. Very few had ideas what it was, but reading between the lines and gathering all the snippets together, Algernon gathered it was an item of The Strange. What interested him most were notes, scribbled in the margin on these articles. Beside one theory as to the nature of the object, someone had written Defunct Intergalactic Transport System, location unknown. Algernon looked back at who had signed these files out before him. In every case of scribbled notes, Hertzfeld had signed out the file.
As usual, Bruce went straight to Katherine to debrief her on what had occurred. His continuing frame of mind to destroy something had not cooled. It simmered as he explained what the party had discovered. If anything, it seemed contagious as Katherine became more and more disturbed as he spoke.
“These beings are playing with us like a football!”He ended with a menacing grumble.
“You found something that will destroy the world?” Katherine replied, standing and leaving her desk, “To Hertzfeld, now.”
Hertzfeld’s experiment had grown considerably from the glove they played with the previous Christmas. Most of the lab benches, vacuum hoods and heavy lab equipment was pushed aside or removed entirely to make way for a black-painted Kombi van on ramps. Hardware was bolted on its chassis, with wiring running everywhere. Something like the mesh the glove had been made of covered the front of the van. The van itself had been guttered except for the driver’s seat, and a wheel, much like that in an aircraft yoke, replaced the whole steering wheel assembly and connected to guidance panels on either side of the van.
When Katherine and Bruce entered the lab, Hertzfeld and Peggy were pawing over data from various seismic readers from all over the world. Activity had been building for the last few days after a long quiet period.
“If this trend continues, it seems the world has five days before it’s torn apart from the inside,” Peggy dispassionately presented the information to the alarmed group, “The destabilising event is inevitable unless we can release the resonance energies safely. I’ve also established the activity is coming from 1,800 miles below, that’s well through the crust and just above the mantle. We will need Hertzfeld’s invention online if we have any chance of getting there in time.”
“Right,” Katherine said, turning to Hertzfeld, “So what do you need? Bruce said something about a seed…”
“An entropic seed. Uentaru said it could help save the Earth,” Peggy supplied, but she knew little more.
“As to what we need,” Hertzfeld continued, “I need help extending the phasing field over the whole van, I need an energy supply to run it and some sort of guidance system to get the van to where it needs to go.”
“Good, any suggestions for talent? You can have anyone here, but is there anyone you would recommend from another recursion?”
“We brought Dram-Shara back with us from Nakarand. She’s a biochemist, but there might be something she can help with,” Peggy suggested, and Hertzfeld put a call into security were Dram-Shara was being debriefed.
“There’s the Quiet Cabal. There were a few good hands there,” Bruce offered, and Kathrine made a note to send an agent to Ruk.
“Do you think Ni-Challan? He’s handy with his robots and computers,” Peggy offered as a suggestion, “We should also talk to Uentaru. Her life depends on us getting to the component in time.”
“The one that put us in this mess!” Bruce growled with disgust, ”I’ll see what I can do there. God knows I understand only one of five things ya’ll talking about,” He pointed at Peggy and Hertzfeld.
“Rain can go talk to Ni’Challan…does anyone know where he’s gone?”
“He stumbled off to the dorms earlier,” Peggy yawned, stifling her own need for sleep.
“Figures…” Bruce said so low it came out only as a bass grumble. With nothing more to say, he stormed out to talk to Uentaru.
No one got in Bruce’s way as he stormed through security and down to the detention cells. No one dared. His expression murderous and his body language threatening violence, his footsteps rung through the empty corridor to Uentaru’s cell. The shiny metal mesh and glass cage was a faraday cage against those who could connect to The Strange. It stopped Uentaru using any abilities she had, including translating. Bruce stared at her through the mesh as two guards on charge intercepted him.
“I’m sorry, sir, you can’t talk to the prisoner,”
“Let me in and lock me in!” Bruce replied, not taking his eyes off Uentaru, who just turned her head and ignored the theatrics.
“Sir, we have strict orders to…”
“And I’m telling you we don’t have time to go through channels. Let me in there and lock me in.”
The two guards look at each other, and as one put through a call on his walkie-talkie, the other opened the cage and let Bruce in.
Bruce didn’t waste a moment. He stomped in and, lifting Uentaru by the collar of her Estate provided overalls, pinned her to the wall.
“They tell me the Earth ends in five days.”
“Well, if I was there to make it happen, my world would be reborn.” She stared back at him, unconcerned for her welfare.
“Your world will end. The only chance any of us have is if something good comes out of the tragedy.”
“The energies will be released, where?”
“Earth’s core. You won’t get there in time. Face it. We’re all doomed.”
“What if we dismantle the Spiral Dust network?”
She laughed. A trilled that would have excited men for a thousand years, now it sounded hollow and defeated, “It’s in motion. No one can stop it now. Do you think to put the water back once the dam is broken? I think not.”
Bruce stared at her a moment, trying to read her but unsure what was going on behind her too calm expression.
“You’re pathetic,” He finally said and dropped her back on her bunk before turning and asking to be let out.
Peggy also entered security to see Dram-Shara. As both Katherine and Hertzfeld were busy, Lawrence Keaton was debriefing Dram-Shara and preparing passage for her back to Ruk. Peggy didn’t believe in preambles and interrupted the interview.
“Are you a realist or an extremist, Dram-Shara?”
“You are an employee of a Karrum owned business. I asked you what do you think of Ruk’s chances if Earth and all the recursion were destroyed?”
“I…I surmise…Ruk would be severely damaged if not destroyed in such a case.”
“Good. We have five days to stop that exact thing from happening.” Peggy said, turning to leave.
“Is that your way of asking for my help?” Dram-Shara scoffed, leaning back on her plastic chair.
“There’s no point in asking unless you’re interested. I can see you have a vested interest in saving Earth, so why bother wasting the words. You know what is at stake.”
Dram-Shara sat there a moment staring at Peggy perplexed before standing silently and following Peggy back to the labs.
Bruce returned to the lab as Peggy finished briefing Dram-Shara on what was required and using her communication cypher to talk directly to Giquabee of the Quiet Cabal. Though it pained her not to make her ear-worm torture device from the cypher, she realised that talking directly to people instead of relying on official channels could tip the balance. With less than five days, they needed every advantage they could get. Bruce took one look at the lab, knew it was not a place for him and stormed off again.
Peggy yawned. They’d been up for 36 hours and travelled two recursions and a worm. It had been a long day, and she decided she needed some rest before focusing her mind on the work ahead. As she left, she noticed Bruce travelling in the same direction as her. She hoped to just follow in after him and slip past to the women’s dorms before anything more was asked of her. That wasn’t to be.
Ahead she heard Bruce stomping down the vinyl floored hallway before slamming open the men’s dorm door.
“Ah! Ow!” Tobias cried from inside as he was suddenly jolted awake by the fuming Bruce. Spotting Peggy, Bruce also waved her into the men’s dorm before closing the door.
“Bruce, I need some sleep,” Peggy yawned again and climbed up onto Algeron’s well-made bed. It was so comfortable she lay her head on the pillow as she listened to the other two talk.
“I was asleep,” Drawled Tobias stretching out the cricks in his back and neck, “What is this about and can’t it wait until I’ve had a few hours rest?”
“She knows,” Bruce ignored Tobias’ complaint.
“Of course she does. It’s her plan” Tobias knew exactly who ‘She’ was and what she knew.
“I want to know what she knows about the component.”
“Well,” Tobias stretched again and stood up in one graceful move, “I guess I could ask her now,” He mused as he examined himself. His clothes did not translate but were a little worse for being slept in. “ I’ll go freshen up a little.”
“We don’t have time…”
“There is always time to look decent. Besides, alarms are only there to make the guilty do something foolish.” He replied quoting Alegernon, and walked into the showers.
“Oh, and don’t forget to talk to Ni’Challan about… help…ing,” Peggy said sleepily as she pulled Algernon’s blankets over her and fell asleep.
The ten minutes it took Tobias to clean off the worst of his exhaustion and smarted up his suit may have seemed an eternity to Bruce, but the duo were soon walking across the Estate, the little man chipper and as fresh looking as someone who’d just come back from holidays.
“We could do with Algernon and his mind scraping,” Bruce said as they drew near the library.
“Bruce, have you ever wondered about the nature of God?”
Bruce stopped in his tracks. The thought was so contrary to anything his brains was trying to comprehend that it froze, his mouth hanging open in astonishment.
Tobias stopped when he realised that Bruce was no longer by his side.
“What I mean is, it’s sort of a revelation to find out that God is a machine, don’t you think?”
“What…? Why are you talking at me about this?” Bruce wailed, finally finding his feet once more.
“I get Jesus. A man of his time, totally quickened. It only makes sense. The same with Buddha and Mohammad. These are people speaking of their time with voices and actions affected by the Strange. But God? We’re always told he’s unknowable, that his ways are ineffable and that it will all become clear at the end of days. Well, we’re at the end of days, and I think it has been made clear. The Aleph machine is God, and we couldn’t hope to understand it because what’s to understand? It’s a broken down piece of alien tech, right?”
“Are you sure you don’t want to speak to a priest or something about this?”
“Oh goodness no, could you imagine? Hey, that religion you’ve been so keen on for 2000 years or more? What if I told you I had evidence its deity is space junk? No. Algernon has no concept of God, and Peggy is busy. You had a Christian upbringing. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.”
Bruce was not a philosophising man, but neither was he stupid. He had a feeling that Tobias was playing with him a little, maybe for getting him out of bed.
“Look, all I know is you do what’s right, right?”
“But what’s right in relation to a machine?”
“It doesn’t matter about God. You do what’s right. Look after others as you’d want them to look after you…”
“The Two Great Commandments, or at least Jesus version is. So, it is not the power, God, Aleph component that matters, but how we respond to it?”
“Yes…?” Was that was Bruce was saying? It sounded right but very wrong all at the same time. Just then, he spotted Algernon through the library windows and, with a silent sigh of relief and pointed him out.
“Greeting all-powerful one. Tell me, how do you destroy a planetoid with your mind and still walk around like an everyday human being?” Tobias joked as they walked up to Algernon in the near-deserted library, his head deep in files. When Algernon raised his head to respond, the pale complexion and deep bags under the eyes spoke for him, “Ah , so that’s how. Still mere flesh then.”
“We’re going to have a chat with Uentaru,” Bruce ignored Tobias, who was obviously in a prankish mood, “I’d like you to pick her brains.”
“I couldn’t last time I tried,” Algernon replied, staking up the files for the librarians to file away, “ Her mind was shielded or something. But I do have some questions to ask.” And leaving the library the trio headed towards security. Bruce made one more stop before reaching Uentaru. At security, he signed out his gun, checked and holstered it.
“You don’t need a gun, Bruce.” Tobias was suddenly serious.
“What do you hope she will say at the point of a gun she wouldn’t say before? And I won’t help you with torture.”
“You just do your thing, and I won’t need the gun.” He replied adamantly, and they continued to their destination.
Uentaru was as before, sitting on a cot in the glass and wire cage. Tobias led the way, politely knocking on the glass before speaking.
“How are you keeping?” He asked like a concerned friend at a sick bed.
“Fine,” She replied curtly, not bothering to keep eye contact once she saw who was there.
“Mind if I come in?” Tobias asked, watching her demeanour.
“Suit yourself.” She was putting on a strong front. She’d had to for a long time. She was alone in the universe.
Tobias asked for the cage to be opened, and he stepped inside. There was nowhere else to sit beside the floor. Flicking up his yellow jacket, he couched to be on a level with Uentaru.
“Bruce tells me you are a Chaos Templar. That you founded the order. I found it intriguing that you created a group whose sole focus was to stop planets being destroyed.”
Uentaru’s gaze swung around, baleful and contemptuous, “I saved thousands of planets from destruction. I earned the right to resurrect what was.”
“Hmm, I’m not arguing with you. But, do you think it’s a view your fellow knights would share?” Tobias asked, and the strong exterior cracked a little.
“You know nothing of the Chaos Templars,” She couldn’t look at him and turned away, seemingly disinterested in the conversation. But, for a moment, he saw the despondency and her complete lack of hope.
Summoning the power of the Strange, Tobias wove one thought, an ideal that where there is life, there is hope. With it, he continued to talk, embedding the ideal in Uentaru’s mind.
“That’s true. Nonetheless, they seem a noble group. I’d like to get to know them, Uentaru.”
“Well, it’s too late. Everything is in motion. You can’t save it now.“ Now the hopelessness was obvious to everyone watching.
“Never,” Tobias smiled, trying to catch her eye, “We have a vehicle that can get us to the Aleph component, and we have the entropic seed. We have the brilliant minds of Algernon and Peggy to guide us, and we’ve even got people from Ruk helping out. No, we have life, Uentaru, and while we have that, we have hope.”
The ideal connected with his words and sparked something deep within Uentaru. Her head bowed, and after a long pause, she spoke again, “If I had an Entropic seed, this is how I’d use it…”
Algernon took over the conversation from that moment on, asking appropriate questions to understand the true nature of the seed and how to use it in the situation.
“So, with the Entropic seed, we can turn off the Aleph component?”
“Yes, but you don’t want to do that. The Aleph component made the Strange. It made Earth the way it is. If the Aleph component is turned off or destroyed…well, it would be the same as doing nothing.” She said with assurance that gave the group pause—doomed if they did too little, doomed if they did too much.
“The Earth is a rare place. I search a thousand years and found only Earth with its link to the recursion and the Strange. No other prime world has such a link. It created a race of people all with the spark and the highest concentration of quickened in the Universe.”
“Can I ask how you were going to get to the Aleph component when the time was right?” Algernon asked. It wasn’t a question that had come across anyone else’s minds.
“I have a key to cavern where the Aleph component lies. I keep it in a private recursion. The only way for you to get there is with a recursion key, a poster, held by my associate in Cairo.”
“Could you take us there?” Tobias asked hopefully.
“That’s not happening, Rain,” Bruce warned as Tobias shrugged his shoulders. Instead, Bruce spoke to one of the guards and asked a message be send to the Cairo office and see if they could get a hold of the poster.
“Uentaru?” Algernon asked again, “The distribution arrangement for the Dustman, how did you do all of that?”
“Contacts. I found and gave him the contacts. The Crow Hollow families were ideal managers of the network. I arranged it for him.”
“The qephilim woman with the bright yellow mythlight…” Tobias slapped his head, “Remember Algernon? Rimush back in Ardeyn told you that the Dustman first came with a woman.” He turned to Uentaru in awe, “I never questioned you…you were so… good.”
Uentaru didn’t respond, only bowed her head so no one could see her face.
Algernon continued with his question, ”Do you have any tech that would be useful to us?”
“No,” She said without raising her head, “ I have nothing, you’ve taken everything from me.”
Algernon had what he needed to know. It was time to go.
“I’ll come by for another conversation soon,” Tobias said, standing and leaving the cage “Say five days?”
It was late. Bruce and Algernon had not slept at all since returning. In an unspoken agreement, they headed back to the dorms for a decent rest before the hard work of the next few days. Algernon was flummoxed when he turned to his bed and found Peggy sleeping there. For a moment, he thought to wake her, thought better of the idea (he really did require his ears) and snuck into the women’s dorm to sleep in her bed instead.
There were a few other occupants of the women’s dorms, so he was sure to sneak as quietly as possible, checking for traps and snags that would give him away. He found one under the pillow, a nasty buzzer that would have woken everyone present. With his crossbow armed and ready, he caught a few hours rest, all that he needed these days. It wasn’t until he was leaving early the next morning that he caught a rug trap, tripping up and waking the closest of the inhabitants.
“Wha…? What are you doing in here?” Said the very fit young female agent as she sat bolt upright in bed.
“Sorry, I was looking for Peggy. Is she here?”
“Get out,” The woman rolled over and didn’t give the peeping tom another thought.
Algernon didn’t look back. He was pleased that someone would be able to tell Peggy he’d been there.
The group gathered over the usual breakfast, and Algernon updated Peggy on using the Entropic seed. After a cup of coffee with the group, Tobias didn’t waste any time and headed to Peggy’s lab to translate out to the Graveyard of the Machine gods.
Travelling alone through the Strange was slow and taxing, and he was glad when the library with the large window looking out onto the space station slowly came into focus. Ni’Challan was not there to greet him this time, and he had to go hunting out the old man within the vast interior of the station. Thankfully, the sounds of repairing and the occasional verbalised instructions helped Tobias hone in on Ni’Challan’s location. He found him organising a group of robots to replace the internal walls in a section of the upper station that saw most fighting.
“Well, what disaster gives me the pleasure of your presence?” Ni’Challan said, glancing over his shoulder to where Tobias was walking down the hallway.
“I’m glad my presence is a pleasure, even in a disaster,” Tobias smirked, and the old man gave a dry laugh and turned back to orchestrating his robots.
“I assume you would like something.”
“Yes, unfortunately. Uentaru, how long have you known her?”
“Ohhh, a while. She helps out when she can,” Ni’Challan turned and looked thoughtfully and Tobias, “Why?”
“And you’d say she’s a good person wouldn’t you?”
“Yes,” He replied instantly without doubt, but now Tobias had his attention, “Why?”
“We’ve just caught her planning to destroy the Earth and its recursions on the hope that she could remake her homeworld, Mycaeum.”
“Ah, yes,” Ni’Challan grew grave and now forgot the robots and the repairs for the subject at hand, “She always was overly fond of the old place. But, what has this to do with me? You caught her? The world is safe?”
“We caught her. She confessed the whole plan and has helped with information. Still, the machine is already working. Unless we can get to a spot deep in the Earth’s crust within five days and do something about it, the Earth and recursions will all be destroyed regardless. We’re gathering help from all over the recursions, and I was wondering what you may know or have that could help, ” Tobias looked at the old man and could see his mind was already on the task.
“Tell me everything.”
Ni’Challan questioned Tobias about the Aleph component and their plans with the entropic seed. As they spoke, Ni’Challan guided Tobias through the station and down into the lower levels. Here he stored all the projects that he hadn’t got to around to preparing for display. Here anonymous crates and broken artifacts lay in huge drifts through the vast warehouse-like space. Glancing around at the collections of ‘junk’, Tobias was astounded that one person could collect so much in one lifetime, let alone know where anything was. Still, Ni’Challan led him through narrow paths between near-titering piles of stuff with a sureness of a ranger in a favoured forest.
As with any forest, the junk piles finally thinned out to a clearing where a large two-seater flying vehicle rested. It was a helicopter of sorts with two props that were held out from the vehicle’s body on long arms to either side. The remains of a red and black paint job could be seen on the body of the vehicle in the style of a dragon. That is, where the body wasn’t melted down to the chassis. As far as Tobias was concerned, it was a wreck and belonged, floating among the detritus that encircled the station.
“The people of this recursion tried to restart their dying sun. They failed, of course, but you had to admire their spirit,” Ni’Challan ran his hand over the unmelted side of the cockpit, and Tobias could see the old man’s passion for the story of noble but inevitably doomed heroism. He hoped their story would not be equally as tragic.
“The vehicle itself is too far gone, but the fusion engine could be useful in the right hands.”
“This just might be the thing Hertzfeld and Peggy have been looking for. Thank you, Ni’Challan.”
“Bring it back if you can. One day it will have pride of place in my collection.”
Ni’Challan now went rummaging through nearby boxes strewn throughout the clearing. With a cry of triumph, he pulled out a one-piece suit and helmet made of thin silvery material. He pulled out four such suits from the box and packed them carefully in the burnt-out shell of the flying machine.
“They should help with the heat. You did say you were heading deep into the Earth’s crust?”
“I understand there’s a sort of cavern where the component lies.”
“Still, you’ll be glad you have those once you get there,” Ni’Challan tapped the suits, and Tobias realised that in sharing his collection, the coolly distant old man was showing love.
“I never did get to tell you. I found out a little more about my background,” He said, drawing out the heavy silver locket and showing Ni’Challan the image of a young woman, “This is Avel, my mother.”
Ni’Challan’s dark eyes fixed on the small portrait and crossed the clearing , a hand outstretched. Silently he looked upon the photo and then at Tobias, a fervidly curious expression on his face.
“Extraordinary! But how did you find her?”
“Ah,” Tobias smiled, taking the old man’s hand in his, “I’ll tell you all about it in six days.”
Back on Earth, the rest of the group were preparing as best they could. Though Algernon had covered everything Uentaru had shared with him, Peggy still insisted on watching the security video footage of the interview for herself. Algernon didn’t take offence and did what he could do to help Peggy get up to speed.
Bruce spent the morning at the gym working himself hard while letting his mind drift through thoughts of what they’d been through in the last few days and where they were going in the next few. Exhausting the body, he centred and renewed his mind, reinforcing his sense of self-control after the confusing and disorientating trip through Nakarand. Once out the other end, he felt more at peace, ready to help in any way he could.
“Hey, I have this electrical null field,” He said, returning to Hertzfeld’s lab and the centre of all activity, “It protects against electricity. Do you think it can help?”
Peggy took the cypher with a silent nod and added it to a collection of useful items ready to be installed on the van.
Soon after, Tobias returned with shiny metal suits and the promise of an engine. While Peggy went back to her lab to inspect the copter, Bruce put on the largest of the suits, and Algernon bathed him in flames from a propane torch.
“Are you going to turn that on or what?” Bruce’s muffled voice could be heard over the roar of the flames.
Tobias took the opportunity to talk to Dram-Shara, who was busy laying down electrical cables throughout the van.
“In Nakarand, you said you had a cypher that would create a portal to Ruk? I was hoping I could take it with us on this crazy trip to the centre of the Earth,” He said, giving her an imploring look. She thought for a moment and then pulled from her pocket a small metal box with a press button.
“If you can’t stop the Aleph component, this thing is not going to do me any good.” She handed it over.
Peggy returned, announcing the engine would be suitable for the van, and she and Bruce started pulling the old Kombi’s air-cooled engine from the chassis.
“We could also reinforce the Kombi’s body with the aircraft frame.”
Algernon took it upon himself to start cutting up the aircraft body with an arc welder. The extra power required started a short circuit in the cockpit of the aircraft. Sparks and bright red flames illuminated the lab, quickly catching alight the seating and insulation. Peggy and others, drawn by the fire alarms, soon had the flame out, but not the flames of Peggy’s anger. That was until she realised none of her equipment was damaged. All he’d achieved was a black mark on the roof and scorching himself.
“Maybe you should stick to creating the software interface,” She said, picking up an oxy-acetylene torch. He quickly left and did as he was told.
All that day, Hertzfeld’s lab was Queen’s chamber at the centre of a large beehive of workers all focused on one task. Giquabee turned up midday and started working on the guidance system that would direct the van to the cavern of the Aleph component. Dram-Shara connected the fusion engine to the battery rod and the rest of the van, providing power for the phasing field, steering, guidance system and dozens of other essential systems. The phasing field was Hertzfeld’s, but his proudest moment was when he installed a large red button with a clear perspex cover to the dashboard.
“In case of emergencies. Technically, it should take the van and everyone in it to a random recursion.”
“Technically?” Tobias asked, picking up on the adverb.
“Either that or it will blow you up. That’s why it’s for emergencies.” Shrugged Hertzfeld.
“Either way, I bags sitting there. Who can resist a red button.” Tobias grinned and missed Bruce’s calculating look behind.
Algernon quietly worked away created computer interfaces between it all and the human’s who had to pilot the thing. More and more, that task was looking like his.
“Too many scientists and not enough lab assistance,” Bruce joked as by late that evening, they all stepped away from the modified Kombi van, their tasks complete.
That night, they ate a feast ordered and Ubered in by Tobias. At first, they ate quietly, too exhausted to enjoy the extravagant items on offer. When the lobster was described as a giant sea cockroach and champagne as off fruit juice to the Ruk guests, merriment descended on the group. It was at their last meal together that they christened the Kombi van.
“Why don’t we call it Unfazed?” Bruce suggested to the group, inspiring the other to come up with equally and punny names.
“I like Bertie,” Peggy said, inspiring Tobias.
To be continued…