Beyond Time Chapter 3
The expression on the two scientists’ faces turns from utter glee to absolute horror. In their excitement, they had forgotten a fundamental rule of their profession. Always, always make sure you are in a secure area before you talk about your experiments and especially your discoveries!
“Come on. Let’s see if we can catch up with whoever that is!” Peter pulls on Jimmy’s arm as he rushes to the door. He and Jimmy speed through the house. Peter trips as he rushes past the couch and almost falls. He regains his balance and follows Jimmy out the front door.
Just as they arrive outside, they see a car door slam and a hunter green Mazda loudly peels off in the direction of SurfsideBeach.
“I’m on it!” Jimmy cries as he jumps from the porch, into his Mustang, and roars off in the same direction.
Peter watches the chase alone from his porch, as the tail lights rapidly diminish before him. Even as the two cars round a distant corner and disappear from view, Peter’s mouth remains open in stunned surprise.
What if Jimmy did discover a particle with negative mass that can be harnessed for use? Peter wonders to himself. His thoughts race through the ramifications of what he has just learned from Jimmy.
If this new particle really does produce a negative density scenario, especially in light of what he’s learning with his EMSM experiments, two of the chief obstacles to linking our world with other times and space could be overcome.
But now someone else obviously knew about all of this, too.
Peter is still standing on the front porch when he sees the red Mustang come back into view down Ocean Boulevard. He can’t see at first if Jimmy is by himself or with someone.
June 15, 1968
Asleep in the tree house, Peter and Ben were awakened by a booming crack that sounded like a giant firecracker or maybe a gun blast.
“What was that?” Ben exclaimed, his eyes wide with fear.
“I don’t know. It came from the direction of your house.”
“Ben!” An agonized yell pierced the darkness.
“It’s Sarah! Come on, Pete. We gotta see what happened.”
The boys scurried down the rope ladder and into the dense black woods, heading toward Ben’s house. When they had only traveled a few hundred feet, they began to hear Sarah’s sobs. She was running toward them.
“Ben! Ben!” she screamed.
“I’m right here, Sarah. Pete and I are coming!” Ben reassured his sister.
Finally the three met inside the first clearing between the house and the tree house observatory.
Out of breath, Sarah gulped. “Ben! I shot him. I shot Dad. I think he’s dead. He’s bleeding all over the place. I shot him in the stomach! I didn’t mean to, Ben! I didn’t mean to. He was mad, and I couldn’t bear him hurting me again!”
“We need to call an ambulance!” Ben yelled as they hurried toward the house. “Sarah! What gun? Where did you get a gun?”
“I heard him coming down the basement stairs, and I ran and hid in the closet. I hid behind the coats, hoping he wouldn’t find me. I bumped against something hard and reached into a coat pocket and found a gun. He opened the door and started screaming at me. Then he went to grab me and the gun went off. It happened so fast. I was just going to scare him. How did it go off? There’s blood everywhere! Ben!” Sarah gasped in panic, breathing hard as they ran.
When they got to the back of the house, the wail of sirens filled the air. “Dad’s got help now,” Ben whispered.
“What should we do?” asked Sarah.
Ben’s face was pale. “We will….” He hesitated. “We’ll go back to the tree house until we can figure out what to do.”
Ben, Peter, and Sarah hurried back to the observatory and pulled the rope ladder up. By now the sirens had stopped. They could make out the faint flashing of blue and red lights in the direction of the house.
Sarah continued to sob…more quietly now. Ben and Peter were on either side, each with an arm around her. Peter felt as protective of Sarah as Ben did. She was so young to have been through so much.
“You two stay here,” Ben suddenly commanded. “I’m going to sneak back to the house and see what’s going on.”
“I’ll go with you Ben,” Peter replied.
“No, Pete. I want you to stay with Sarah. Sarah, what did you do with the gun?”
“I don’t know, Ben,” Sarah sobbed. “I must have dropped it somewhere. I don’t remember.”
“Which door did you come out of, Sarah?” asked Ben insistently.
“I came right out the basement door and cut through the back yard to the woods,” explained Sarah, between sobs.
“OK. I’ll be back soon. Stay here,” Ben said as he lowered the rope ladder. He quickly descended and disappeared into the woods.
“Peter, I’m scared!” Sarah whispered. “I think Daddy is dead! I didn’t mean to! I just didn’t want him to hurt me again!”
“I know, Sarah. Don’t worry now. Maybe he’s not dead. People can live with gunshot wounds.”
“But there was so much blood!”
“Just try and calm down. We’ll find out soon enough.” Peter tried to comfort Sarah, but he was shaking with fear himself. The thought crossed his mind that he should just go home. But he couldn’t leave Ben and Sarah now.
Sarah’s sobs slowed and finally they stopped completely. She had fallen into an exhausted sleep, nestled against Peter.
How could she sleep now? Peter wondered to himself. But soon he too had dozed off into an uneasy sleep.
July 17, 2002
Jimmy pulls up alone and slams the car door hard as he gets out and stalks toward Peter, still standing on the porch.
“I lost ’em!” a dejected Jimmy exclaims as he walks past Peter into the condo. “I was gaining ground, but they made it across the bridge right as the drawbridge was lifting. I thought about jumping it. In fact, I sped up, thinking I might. But I chickened out.”
“Probably a good thing with your new car and all. Did you get a look at who was listening in on our conversation?”
“Not really. Unless someone else was leaning down, I could only see one person in the car. I couldn’t really tell if it was a man or a woman, but they were driving a dark green Mazda, probably a 626, with a temporary dealer tag. What do you think we should do now?”
“Good question.” Peter opens the refrigerator door. “Come on, let’s formulate a plan. You want a Newcastle?”
“Do you even need to ask?”
Peter fumbles through a drawer next to the sink, finds an opener, and pops open a beer for Jimmy and himself.
Jimmy follows Peter back through the condo and out the back door. They grab a couple of beach chairs and head down toward the beach, weaving through the curved path forged between sea oats and tall grass. This time they want to be sure no one is listening.
Peter searches the dunes on both sides of the path as they walk, but then stops and turns to Jimmy. “I’m just curious. What did you use to measure negative weight?”
“Well, I told you I’ve been in charge of studying the effects of heat on the deposit,” Jimmy replies. “I’ve been heating the meteorite to plasma and recording all changes. I set up a detection device—you know, one of those Ultras we were asked to evaluate. It’s extremely sensitive and can measure the energy and weight of anything released from the plasma at different levels of heat. It keeps a detection log, based on an atomic clock, producing continual recordings of energy levels and weight.”
Peter begins moving again toward the beach as Jimmy continues.
“Doc, that Ultra is something else! It has the ability to identify all known particles, and let me tell you, whatever came out of that meteorite deposit when I dropped the magnetic field and began the cool-down stage is something new.”
“The Boullionitron!” Peter’s excitement is building again. “But tell me about the weight. Surely the Ultra isn’t set up to record negative mass.”
“You’re right,” Jimmy explains. “The only way I know the new particle has negative density is by using the total weight of the plasma before and after the magnetic field was dropped. The weight of the entire plasma decreased as the particle was released.”
When they get to the beach, they unfold their chairs, close to the ocean. The breaking of the waves masks their conversation.
“Does anyone else on the team know about the particle yet?” Peter asks.
“No, but a couple of them probably know I was going to be using the Ultra yesterday to try and confirm my suspicions of an unknown particle. I didn’t begin to use it until last night and I got so excited about what I was finding, I worked straight through until this morning. Since it was Friday night and Saturday morning, everyone else was either out of town or with their families. I was just about to call one of them this morning when I got your e-mail.”
“Do you know all of them pretty well by now?” Peter inquires.
“Well, you know Jake, he’s with us and Bradshaw’s from Erskine. There’s Milton from Clemson. Those are the ones I’m most familiar with. There’s a young gal from Vermont named Marlee, who attended UNC Wilmington.”
“Marlee? That’s an unusual name.”
“Yeah, it’s a combination of Margaret and Lee, her two grandmothers’ middle names.”
“Sounds like you know her pretty well.”
Jimmy ignores Peter’s comment. “There’s also an older woman I’m just getting to know, from Randolf Macon in Virginia. Then there’s a guy from MIT named Russell Brock. We just call him Brock. And an astronomer from Harvard named Stephen…Stephen Davis.”
“Yeah, I know Davis. He was at the meeting last week with Dean Derrick. Seems he’s world renowned for his studies on the winter constellations. Do you think any of them could be feeding information to someone else or have their own motives for what you might have found out?”
“There’s always a possibility. But none of them seemed suspicious.”
“Someone knew you were coming here. And they knew it soon enough to get here right behind you. Your phone and/or computer must be bugged. In fact, they may have even been watching your experiments last night and today. There’s a possibility that others know everything that you know about the Boullionitron.”
“I don’t know if we should call it that.”
“It doesn’t matter, Jimmy. I’m calling it that for now. The credit for finding the particle may soon be taken from you anyway. Can you think of anything in your experiments last night and this morning that could have gone undetected if the lab was being visually and audibly bugged?”
“The bad thing is that I talk to myself when I work alone. And I got so excited about the density of the particle that I’m sure I yelled every detail.”
“That’s unfortunate. That means others know the possibilities. And judging by the underhanded way they tried to spy on us, I can only conclude they are up to no good.”
“Wait a minute!” Jimmy exclaims. “There is one thing they may not know.”
“At first, there was no consistent detection of the foreign particle at all. I spent an hour or so thinking that the existence of a new particle was only a cruel illusion. I was almost going to give up for the night and go home after trying everything I could think of that might have prevented the new particle from being released. I tried one last thing. Rather than dropping the magnetic field at the heat apex, I reached the apex and then began the cool-down stage. The meteorite was still in a plasma state, but cool-down had begun. It was then that I got a faint reading on the Ultra of the new particle, but it was hardly detectable. This gave me hope to continue trying different intervals and I discovered that the new particle was only fully released when the magnetic field was dropped 2.0876 seconds after removing the heat source.”
“That’s good!” replies Peter, gaining hope. “You set the device to digitally release the magnetic field 2.0876 seconds after you stopped the heat.”
“That’s right. And unless there was a video camera on my forehead, no one could have known exactly what I was doing.”
“You didn’t talk while you were adjusting the settings?”
“I don’t think so. By that time I was getting extremely tired. I don’t think I ever mentioned 2.0876 seconds.”
“Good!” replies Peter. “That might give us a little time.”
Jimmy yawns. By now the lack of sleep is getting to him.
“Looks like you could use a nap. But Jimmy, there’s something you don’t know that may make your discovery one of the most fantastic discoveries in scientific history.” Peter definitely has Jimmy’s attention as he continues. “This is beyond top secret. Only Dean Derrick and a selected few scientists on the EMSM research board know what I’m about to tell you. A few weeks ago, during some routine EMSM test blasts, I noticed an unusual amount of activity in the Kuiper Belt. Since then, I’ve concentrated my experiments in that area. There may be a wormhole out there. The committee is doing some more extensive studies on my data. I’ll know for sure next week.”
“That’s incredible, Doc!”
Both stare at the ocean for a few minutes.
“Let’s go back, Jimmy. I’ve got some ideas I’d like to spec out. You can grab a short nap before we get some supper.”
Peter and Jimmy fold up their chairs and head back to the condo.
“Hey Doc, is Stephen Davis on the EMSM research committee?”
“Yes, he is. We need to keep an eye on him. Since he has a role in your meteorite research team as well, he could be exposed to all of this information.”
As they reach the back porch, Jimmy’s cell phone rings.
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