by Kelly Parks
The girl at the desk was not so friendly anymore. She used to be, when my
benefactor first set me up here on the 22nd floor. She used to be ditzy and friendly
and childishly inquisitive about my work. But the pretense was gone now. Marta
was Max's spy, here only to make sure my reports were honest.
And why wasn't she pretending anymore? Because it was over. I hadn't received
official notification that the project was finished, but I felt sure the decision was
made. It was a matter of days at most before the power was shut off and all the
equipment went into storage.
She was intently surfing the net, undoubtedly shopping her receptionist/spy
resume around to various wealthy madmen. I silently wished her luck, but didn't
bother with conversation, having lost interest in pretense myself.
Past the reception area, down a hall with doors to small offices -- all unoccupied
-- through a set of double doors and there I was: standing in front of the only
gateway to alternate universes that had ever existed in human history. I built it
and I should have won the Nobel Prize for it, but part of the agreement I'd made in
exchange for the money to build it had been a thoroughly binding secrecy
agreement. I'm pretty sure there was a clause in there somewhere about my soul.
Part of me still believed in miracles because there was a familiar feeling of hope as
I switched on the equipment and began going through last night's logs, but it was
quickly replaced by black despair as I saw that nothing had changed.
My cell beeped at me, the pattern telling me it was Max, or at least Max's office. I
flipped it open and the tiny screen showed the fresh, young face of Art Samuelson,
one of Max's lawyers. He smiled a sunny smile, waiting for me to accept the call.
I did. "Good morning, Art, " I said. No reason to be unfriendly. Lawyers can't
help being what they are. No point in hating fungus for being fungus.
"David," he said. "Good morning to you! In the lab, eh? Never say die, that's
"The scans are getting much wider ranging now," I said, which was true. I was
searching a bigger slice of infinity. "The results should be --"
"Dave," he interrupted in that pseudo-friendly way that you unconsciously want to
believe. "You know I don't have a head for the tech stuff. Alternate universe,
blah, blah, blah is all I hear when you talk about the details. No offense."
"None taken," I said. I sat down at my desk and put my phone on its stand.
"Davey, we've got a problem," he said. Here it comes. "All your gizmos are just
drawing too much juice. The building manager has asked us to knock it off for a
week or so until we can get an electrical contractor in there to certify everything.
Sounds like a bunch of bull crap to me, probably designed to raise our rent. You
know how these bastards are, right?"
I really had no idea which bastards he was talking about and felt certain the us vs.
them invitation was meant to make me feel like we were in this together. A team.
"Anyway," he said, "I need you to lay off the experiments until we can get this
situation taken care of, okay?"
"Sure, Art. No problem. I can analyze the existing data for --"
"Excellent!" he said. "And, hey, how about lunch later this week? Max and I are
doing that new Argentine place day after tomorrow at 11:30. Meet us there,
I nodded. He hung up.