Chapter One


Dr. Stevenson’s Lab, Washington DC
It is not often that one can say with absolute certainty that the world had irreversibly changed. John stared at the wall clock enthralled as the second hand of this new reality ticked slowly by. Clamoring for attention in his peripheral vision, the computer screen flashed those fateful words in large green letters, ‘Simulation Successful!’
John scrunched his eyes shut before taking a deep breath from flash pain in his lower back. The last round of tests had been particularly gruesome. His head pounded from long hours of sustained concentration and copious amounts of caffeine. John rubbed his temples and the fragile skin under his thickset glasses that always burrowed into the bridge of his nose.
Resetting his Buddy Holly black frames on his nose, John opened his eyes. He stared at the computer screen and knew that when others discovered this new reality, they would stop at nothing to control it.
Developing a working theory was one thing, applying it to build a prototype is something else entirely! Leaning forward, John focused on the monitor. The words were still there… blinking loudly, taunting him. His thoughts strayed momentarily onto the devastating implications if his discovery fell into the wrong hands.
Eventually, casting aside those weighty notions, he focused on his achievement; a smile crawled across his face to settled into his ‘happy-campus’.
He was experimenting with matter transportation through the nth dimension.
What started out two years ago as a random thought experiment, had led to this astonishing discovery. Matter, in theory, could be transported outside of space-time from one location to another. Instantaneous travel was theoretically possible!
John’s unrestrained laughter echoed off the sterile lab walls. In a spontaneous moment of joy, he jumped up and started dancing haphazardly around the room. Lost in his own merriment, he miss-stepped badly to come crashing down onto the floor, still shaking with mirth.
He was taken by surprise when the lab door flung open framing a petite, wide-eyed brunette sporting a pristine white lab coat.
“Are you ok?” Jen asked.
“Ha, ha … I’ve never been better ...”
Jennifer looked down at him with a frown. Is he some crazed psychopath? Shaking her head, she should have checked the other tenants to this lab facility before she moved here!
Jen stood there frozen, with the door wide, caught in John’s line of sight, undecided as to inquire further or just leave. John lay on the floor laughing while he struggled to regain his composure.
“Are you sure you’re OK?” she said with a nasal Australian accent.
“Yes, yes, I just had wonderful news.”
Jen waited for him to elaborate further, nothing. Then finally she prompted him, “You just won the lottery?”
John laughed, “No. Something much better.”
Slowly, he got to his feet and straightened his glasses. His face flushed as he noticed how beautiful Jen was. Her crinkled forehead and smiley crow feet eyes betrayed her concern at his spontaneous outburst. Her interest flushed his crimson cheeks even more.
After an uncomfortable moment of silence, Jen realized that John was not going to be any more forthcoming, so she half-smiled and turned to the door.
“Crazy Americans,” Jen muttered to herself, as she turned away and left the room.
John shook his head. Damn! It was obvious that he needed to brush up on his social skills; that wasn’t half awkward, she must think I’m nuts. She did have a nice smile though.

♦♦♦

Jen walked back to her lab trying to refocus her thoughts after the annoying interruption of her apparently crazy neighbor. She needed to get some work done as time was running out.
She had recently moved house leaving Sydney to live in Washington DC. Since getting her doctorate, she had been struggling to find work in Australia. Her big break had come when an American research firm headhunted her to bolster up their research profile. As quickly as her big break had come, it had mysteriously disappeared.
Once the company had secured the tender for some fat Department of Defense contracts, her services were no longer needed. Rightly annoyed she’d sent letters and emails to anyone who would listen, but to no avail. Knowing the injustice, and proving it, were two entirely different things.
Her right to work in the States was quickly becoming a problem, her visa required her to have active long term employment. In a last ditch attempt, she called in a favor from a friend she’d met at the university for some medium-term contract analysis work. She had hoped this would be enough to circumvent the visa restrictions, but more importantly, solve her immediate money problems. Nevertheless, she was far from convinced it would be sufficient; She needed something else… A backup plan, a plan ‘B’.
♦♦♦
John finally calmed down after his outburst and reseated himself at his desk. Focusing his attention back on his computer screen, he clicked through his nth dimensional model checking its parameter inputs once again. He had to be absolutely sure of all his calculations. One wrong calculation and he could rip a hole in space-time. He wasn’t sure what would happen then. All he knew was that it would be bad, very bad.
Working late into the night, John eventually pushed his chair out and turned off his computer. He decided it was time for an impromptu celebration. Realizing it was quite late, he discounted calling his longtime reservist friend Elvis. His real name wasn’t actually Elvis; he had acquired that nickname when he was in the Army. Elvis like to hum the lyrics to one of his namesake’s song, ‘A Big Hunk O’ Love’. It invariably annoyed the rest of his unit when he hummed it loud enough to be overheard by their NCO; who gave them all demerit calisthenics each time. John tried not to laugh at the sexual innuendo, but sometimes, army peer pressure just forced the humor out.
Searching his pockets for the lab key, John walked through the entrance and quietly closed the door. Bright light escaped from under Jen’s door into the dark corridor. John smiled at the opportunity fate brought before him. Striding up to her door he knocked briefly. Soft tapping from inside stopped, and an echo of stiletto footsteps made their way towards him. John straightened his glasses and blurted out his invitation as Jen slowly opened the door.
“Thanks for your offer of help before, I don’t usually go around acting crazy like that.” She couldn’t disguise her annoyance of a caller at such an hour, and their temerity to interrupt her train of thought. John immediately realized he was intruding, but it was too late to take it back. The bright lights from inside the lab coupled with Jen’s agonized expression couldn’t take away the tempered beauty he saw framed within.
Irritated by the intrusion, but after seeing the dilemma on John’s face, Jen smiled and shook her head at their earlier encounter. It was kinda funny seeing a grown man wallow on the ground in obvious delight.
“As long as you don’t make a habit of it. You know, I thought you were going to clean the whole floor with your back with all that giggling.” Her crinkle laughter lines smiled even further.
“Ha, ha… I had a small breakthrough,” John said nervously.
What? Giggling, John grimaced inwardly, like a girl? Hrrummm.
After a short silence, he continued, “It’s getting late, and I just thought … I hate celebrating alone.”
Jen looked at him for a long time trying to determine his motives before nodding briefly.
“There’s a pub, ‘The Flying Jack’ that I sometimes go to, it's just down the street,” said John.
Jen remembered the bar, she had passed it on her way to the lab that very morning. The joint was not too shabby, there was a rustic feel to it. The tacky playing cards magically stuck to the walls at odd angles as though launched from a full pack by a dealer. Their color strewn all over set a festive mood, making the place look somewhat, inviting.
It could be worse she thought, after the day she’d had, she could use a drink.
“OK, but no crazy breakthroughs.”
“Deal,” John said smiling.

♦♦♦

Ten minutes later, the two were sitting at a corner table in ‘The Flying Jack’ nursing a couple of drinks. The late hour had stilled the other patrons. The subdued lighting complemented the Jazz playing softly through hidden speakers. It gave the room a dreamy understated atmosphere.
“So are you going to tell me what we are celebrating?”
John was decidedly uncomfortable with her innocent question. Jen could see he was debating with himself, he finally took a large gulp of scotch and whispered, “I think I just worked out how to teleport matter.”
“Yes, well very funny!” Jen replied. Obviously it was too hush, hush. “I understand. Forget I asked.”
“No, it’s true!”
Jen just smiled. It was a hazard of the industry they worked in; secrets were a necessary evil.
“Well then, you can beam me up another drink Scotty.”