Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 32
Doc Brenner set down his drink, sat back, and crossed his hands over his stomach. He looked like a man defeated. Lin had difficulty figuring out why he would react like that. Hadn’t he just gotten what he wanted? Hadn’t he?
The lights in his eyes came back. “I know. Would you all like to see it?”
“It?” Sam asked, his tone still surly and untrusting.
“The machine. It’s actually quite impressive. It took Clive and me a several months to get everything up here from the cities. It’s quite impressive, if I do say so myself.”
Lin wanted to jump and yell “Yes!” but Sam spoke first. She couldn’t remember him ever being so rude. It was really quite strange as she always thought he was such a nice guy.
“If I see your machine, I’m liable to smash it as much as appreciate it. I’ll pass.”
“I’d like to see it,” Lin said, springing up from her seat.
“Splendid. Anyone else care to join us?”
“Of course,” Tiger Lily added.
Girlfriend stood and gave Sam a dark glare. He bowed his head, took off his hat and scratched his head. “I guess if everyone else is going. . .”
“Wonderful. Just follow me. Oh, and pardon the mess. I’m not much at keeping house, but you know that, don’t you Girlfriend?”
Girlfriend laughed. Sam groaned.
The hallway of the double-wide was spacious enough. Lin almost wished she’d gotten a larger trailer like this one, but then she’d have to keep that much more in order. Her place was just the right size, and she didn’t need to have more space.
He led them into a room and fished a set of keys out of his pocket.
“So this is where you hide out when I’m cleaning,” said Girlfriend.
Doc laughed. “Heavens no. This is just the elevator.”
“Elevator? I never installed an elevator for you.”
“Well, it’s more of a lift floor. You see, this was one of the first things Clive and I had to install. All the equipment from our lab was quite heavy and not much could support it. Of course we had to put in a set of doors in the roof so the crane could lower things down.”
“Crane?” Sam sounded as if he didn’t believe any of what Doc was saying.
“Oh, I assure you, it wasn’t easy to keep all that quiet, but we did manage. Obviously. Most everything arrived in crates so each shipment would be dropped into this room and lowered into the new lab.”
Doc opened the doors, and sure enough it looked like a large elevator, with its stainless steel walls and diamond-plate flooring. They all entered and Doc took up position next to a small console with a display and a few buttons. He punched in a code, not bothering to hide the buttons, and the room’s door closed.
“Sam, I’m sure you’ll appreciate the modifications that have been made to the basement you first dug out. First of all, we had to expand the basement. That wasn’t as difficult, being able to transport large quantities of dirt and shore up the walls with steel beams. Once we transported all the dirt to the new base camp in the past, we just used the front loader to push it around and even out the terrain. It was quite a good system.”
“Wait a minute, are you telling us that you transported a front loader into the past?”
“Oh, yes. As well as some other equipment such as a power generator, gasoline tank, propane, solar panels, and other machinery. We had to keep the base running on the other side. Can’t do that without modern conveniences.”
The elevator moved slowly. Lin reached out and grasped Tiger Lily’s hand more out of anticipation than fear. Tiger Lily pulled her closer. The air grew colder as the elevator descended. Lin wished she’d put on pants instead of the thin shorts she wore. She could feel goosebumps on Tiger Lily’s arm as well.
For going down only one level the elevator seemed to be taking a long time. It was moving slowly, but not that slowly. When it finally stopped, Doc punched in another code and the doors opened. Lin leaned around Sam to look out the doors and gasped.
The room beyond defied what she’d been prepared to see. It extended off into the distance and banks of lights kept turning on revealing more of it. Rows and rows of computer banks ran along one side of the large room and a series of tables and workbenches sat at the foreground of the room, but the dominant structure told Lin her eyes were lying. If she hadn’t been looking at it, she wouldn’t believe it existed.
It stood nearly forty feet and almost touched the ceiling. It appeared to be a large, mesh globe set slightly off center with branches extending in different directions, each terminating with a tiny white light. Each little light had a black speck that floated around it. The entire mass was suspended in the air with no visible supports. The floor beneath it gave way to a massive expansive hole that had no light and the bottom had to be far below.
“How?” Sam asked.
“Oh, I assure you, it was a lot of long days and sleepless nights. Clive and I had the same passion when we built it. Moving it here wasn’t as difficult and once we had a portion of it in place, we were able to start the further excavation. Small amounts at first, and we didn’t care where they wound up until we could send larger amounts. Finally we sent the front loader and Clive leveled a large area for the base camp. I think you’ll be impressed with it once you see it. In fact, it sits on the same location as this trailer park does now. Rather ironic that the Paradise Palms has a twin that really does have palms.” Doc Brenner laughed at his own joke.
“I don’t believe it. I just don’t.”
“Sam, shut up,” Girlfriend said.
Lin pulled Tiger Lily forward, refusing to let go of her hand. “Doc, how does it work?”
“Lin, it would take me years to explain it to you.”
“Try me,” Lin said with a smile.
“Well, let me see if I can make this simple enough for all of you to understand. I won’t go into the mechanics. Think of time as a linear event. For us, time moves forward and only forward. Unidirectional. When you think about space, it’s all over in every direction and for all intents and purposes, it’s infinite. What Clive and I discovered was a sort of fabric in space-time. We thought that by bending the space-time, we could transport items across a distance. Think of it like a piece of paper.”
Doc rushed to a table and picked up a piece of paper. With a pen he drew two dots on the paper, one on either end. “Now when you look at these two points, it’s logical to assume that the shortest distance is a straight line, right? But what if you could fold the paper? Now you could go from one point to the next instantly. In fact, they’d take up the same space for a short period of time.
“All that was simple enough for Clive and me to start our experiments. I had ample money and funded the project myself. We were able to get it to work, but not precisely as we had assumed.
“Remember when I said space-time, not just space? It seems that the fabric doesn’t just consist of points in this time, but all times. Time in the universe isn’t constant, and all points are connected to all other points. When we performed our fold, we connected two points in different times as well as different spaces. Think of it as a million different pieces of paper stacked up on the floor, and you want to connect point A on the top sheet to point z somewhere in the middle of the stack. It takes the same amount of energy because you’re just folding. Space folds easily, in fact.”
Lin processed the information and said, “So what you mean is you can actually connect the past with the present because the fold crosses time as well as space, but wouldn’t that mean that your son might actually be on a different planet? Not just on the same planet at a different time?”
“Oh, smart girl. I had thought the same thing. Look at the floor here.”
On the floor stones spelled out “Hello Dad.”
“That’s a seventy-five million year old note from my son. That’s how we figured out that we’re still on Earth. That’s when we decided to launch the satellite to map out the world.”
“So how is it that what he’s doing back there isn’t changing the world as we know it today? I mean, wouldn’t the crushing of a butterfly cause the world to be a different place or something like that?”
“Ah, the paradox effect. We had thought long and hard about that one. We concluded that the impact we’d have on the past world would be so small as to be insignificant. Think of it like crushing an ant. To the colony, it might have a small impact, but in the long run, there are millions of more ants to be had in the future. So where you may think that a small impact would grow to be devastating to our world today, the exact opposite is true, where the impact made on the past is less significant to our present because too many events happen in the time between. Time has a way of smoothing out the creases in the space-time fabric, so to speak.”
Lin looked up at the massive machine. It currently stood motionless save the tiny black specks. She wondered what it would look like in full motion.
“Couldn’t we calculate the correct coordinates of where your son is and teleport the people there? I mean, I understand what you were saying about the planet movement and all that, but can’t you shift the fold slightly and drop off the recovery people where they could be of the most benefit?”
“There’s the issue. We tried that, teleporting from say here to there, and making a minor change from here to way over there, for instance. The problem we kept running into is that the planet topography isn’t the same. All the dirt that was cleared out of this location was deposited in the past and leveled out to make the home base there. That’s a lot of dirt and a very different landscape. We could accidentally teleport people into a tree, and that wouldn’t end pretty.”
“What if you sent something ahead first, something inanimate, to see if it would survive? Or bring back what was there to clear the area first? Wouldn’t it be possible to do what you did in this basement in reverse?”
“Clever, but it’d take time, and Clive has been on the move for a couple of months. We might be able to get them closer, but I think it’d be better to send back a vehicle and drive to him. Something faster than the front loader.”
“I’ve got my quad, but it wouldn’t hold enough gas to go far enough out and back. I mean, I could put some five gallon gas tanks on the trailer, but that’d really slow my progress.”
Lin was happy to see Sam warming up the idea of going back. That was the Sam she knew.
“Sam,” Doc said. “I don’t think you understand my proposal. I’ve got a vehicle that Clive and I were preparing to take back and drive around. I must assume that he’s on the front loader, as it’s the only thing that could provide him enough protection from the wildlife there. A simple hadrosaur isn’t a meat eater, but it’ll protect its young. Something weighing five tons will make your day real bad.”
“I see your point.”
“That being said, your little quad would never be sufficient. I shall make sure that you not only have proper transportation, but that you have ample fuel and weapons. I really do want to know what has become of my son, Sam.”
Sam looked up at the machine. “And that’s not going to be ready for a while, eh?”
“Perhaps five hours, but I’d like to give it at least six hours just to make sure I can keep it going long enough to get all of you back there.”
Sam frowned and looked at Girlfriend, Lin, and Tiger Lily all in turn. “I’m not going to take any arguments, but none of you are coming with me.”