TARYN'S OTHERLAND: Chapter 1 Upon exiting the elevator on the lab level, my first glance down the corridor in front of me made it very clear that something dramatic had changed. I stepped forward with Bo alongside me as was now our routine for these weekend schedules.
I saw several new faces for guards and any hesitation might have been an alarm depending on why there was such a new and heightened interest in security. The area outside the elevator door was only a small room. There was only one door, besides the elevator, and it was directly opposite. In front of the door was a table and a seated military guard. That was normal. What wasn't normal was the standing military guard with a combat assault rifle held easily across his chest.
The distance separating us was only about ten steps, but I couldn't take my eyes off the soldier who was standing easy, but fully alert while appraising me and Bo. "Relax, Anderson." The man behind the desk looked up at me and smiled. "How is Ms. Douglas today?" "Pretty good, Dave … I mean, Sergeant." I smiled at him and glanced at the Corporal just behind me. Moods relaxed on the weekends, but it wasn't quite the weekend, yet.
I dug into the back pocket of my cutoff jeans and handed him my ID tag. We were supposed to have it clipped to us at all times inside the facility but the weekends were generally more relaxed and it was against my nature to take such protocols seriously. Besides, on these weekend schedules I was usually the only one in the lab and I tended to be very casual and relaxed. The guards never seemed to mind, either.
Not that I was a purposeful tease but it made the time so much easier when the mood was relaxed, which it was when the lab and military hotshots weren't around. Today I came dressed in cutoffs, t-shirt, and hiking boots. After putting my ID on the desk, I pulled my backpack off and placed it on the desk, all for careful inspection.
He might know me very well after our association over this time, but the rules of access to the lab were very explicit and people took them seriously. As events were turning out, I guess I really couldn't blame them despite how much I resented how my life had changed. What really got their attention from the moment I got off the elevator was what else I was carrying over my shoulder: a classic style bow and a quiver of arrows, not to mention the survival knife, all strapped to the outside of the pack.
Bo also had a pack strapped to his back and he sat erect as I unstrapped it from him. It was light, but contained some essentials for him when we were on the trail and he was quite accustomed to carrying his own.
Oh, yeah, Bo is my dog. He isn't normally allowed in the facility, but since I am in the lab essentially by myself doing monitoring of equipment and test animals, he is allowed to accompany me. Dave unzipped the back pack and inspected everything on the desk. He finally looked up at me with a smile. The Corporal, Anderson, was perplexed to say the least.
"You have a trip planned, don't you? It looks like you are planning on leaving from here at the end of the weekend." "Almost from here. I'll park my jeep at the turn-off about three miles south and pick up a trail of some kind there.
I have to get off the facility property, first. I have the rest of the week off. Since I have covered the trail to the north, I am excited to start heading south." Anderson still seemed perplexed so the Sergeant explained. "There is a wilderness trail a few miles west of here that runs from nearly the Washington border to nearly the Mexican border. This young woman over time has covered the trail to the north, most of it alone, if I am not mistaken." He leaned back in his chair holding the broken down bow in his hands and looking at Anderson.
"So, a word to the wise … don't mess with her unless it is official." Anderson appraised me, again, from top to bottom. I gave him a sweet smile and turned my attention to Dave. I could see his interest in the piece. I put out my hand and gave him the 'give it to me' gesture while pulling a small finger tool on a chain from under my t-shirt.
In 45 seconds I had the three pieces unfolded and tightened with the tool. It took me another 90 seconds to pull the wire string from the inside, secure both ends, and apply tension with the same tool. I then held it out to them.
"I never saw anything like that. It's metal, light, and strong. Where …" "My father's own design … well, with the help of a master archer. I don't even know what the metal is. He knew I wouldn't stop trekking alone and he wanted me to have protection and a means to hunt for my food. A gun was certainly an option and I am not averse to them, but they aren't legal on the trails and make a lot of noise.
I can hunt for food with this and nobody will hear anything." Anderson was a big guy, sturdy and lots of muscle probably.
He was just having trouble accepting it all. "Hunting for food?" Dave chuckled as he let me repack everything. "She's a survivalist. Not a nut job, conspiracy theory, doomsday type.
She just likes the wilderness enjoyed on a minimalist basis." The door was buzzed and the lock opened. I moved around the desk to the door, but stopped, turned, and asked the obvious curiosity question, "Why do I see all the added security?" "The sensors outside the perimeter were tripped. Until they check it out, everything is tightened down. I don't think you'll notice too much in there, though." "The last time I was out, I saw a lot of deer and elk moving. I suppose you have to check it out, but I'll bet that's what it is." Before the door closed and locked automatically, I heard Anderson, "Deer and elk?" I heard Dave sigh, "I would tend to believe her.
She just got her PhD in Wildlife specializing in invasive species and wildlife behavior and ecology. I never asked why she is here." The door opened into a long hallway with no doors, indentions, or objects. There was one door at the very end and it was controlled by the security badge. Even after being stopped, vetted, and approved to pass, there was still additional security.
I am not sure why, just the way the government is, I suppose. And, I couldn't blame them for wanting security on this project. The room I walked into had offices and work spaces on either side of the hallway I had just walked down. The main research area was in the middle. It had the feeling of a large concrete bunker … because it was. The facility was built on the side of a mountain so it wasn't actually underground. It was deemed too expensive to dig through the granite for the facility.
They were in far too much of a rush for that. The truth was that where I stood was about 40 feet above the original ground surface. And that ground surface was the slope near the top of a mountain. The cafeteria on the floor above this one had windows with a spectacular view of the valley and river below. But, there were no windows here. As I entered and took over the computers and familiarized myself with the events of the day, the other staff left for the weekend.
No real research was intended. The need for anyone was for the control animals and monitoring the equipment just in case there was a development, but there hadn't been any to date.
Three times a day, Bo and I would be escorted outside for fresh air and for Bo to do his thing. We would also spend time in the cafeteria for food. A total of one hour each time. Other than that, we would be in the lab. After making rounds to assure myself that the animals were okay and the equipment was functioning with expected readouts and data recovery, I settled down at the operations desk in front of the main lab research area.
While scratching Bo's ear as he settled next to me, I thought about the comment from Dave as the door was closing, "I never asked why she is here." I had to smile, even after this time. A PhD in wildlife and I am assisting in research for time travel. That's what this facility was setup for: the expected development of time travel. It started three years ago when I was still working on my PhD research and thesis.
I needed money or I was going to be dropping out. Nothing in my field was paying anything worthwhile for intern work and everything required being away from the university and my hiking. I found some desperate researchers who were working on a theory that nobody … I mean nobody … gave any credence to.
Therefore, they couldn't get any students to take on the work. Students seeking Masters and PhD need some research but not if it is going to be wasting their time and make them look like idiots. But, these guys had this theory about time travel and somehow they got funding to get started. It was a mystery because it didn't come through the university, but the money was there.
The checks cashed every time and that was what I needed. I was only partially engaged but I learned what was needed of me and I quickly became a reliable and trusted lab assistant.
I might have been a fish out of water (a wildlife management joke …) but I was smart and observant. I am not a physicist, but the theory revolved around the use of a strong electro-magnetic field contained within a chamber.
The first year was spent just on the equipment and testing the equipment. The second year was frustratingly spent piecing everything together and refining and refining to achieve the field values the theory required. All of this was happening in make-shift quarters. Then, some trials began. Initially, all that was accomplished was frying a bunch of mice that were used for trials. It only took a few of these before the lab was filled with outside people, all with computer simulations and lots of opinions.
They finally all agreed on the settings and the trials began, again. And, more mice were fried. During this time, I had successfully completed my PhD work but agreed to stay on a while longer to help out. Except for the main researchers, I was one of the few with the history and familiarity to identify mistakes, the greatest potential being in forgetting what had become our history. Everything changed one day when a routine trial was performed and instead of frying a mouse, the mouse disappeared.
There was no smoke, no flash, and certainly no burnt fur smell. After the surprise and shock had worn off, the speculation began as to 'when' it had gone. Did it go back in time or forward? Now that they had done it, what was the mechanism for controlling it? How would they control back or forward and how far?
And, the government took over: military, intelligence, National Security. The original researchers still had control but with a lot more help and hands-on attention. And we moved into this facility within months and re-established a functional laboratory with increased sophistication and a hundred times more money. It was as if the government had this facility ready and waiting, maybe for a different project that was scrapped or wasn't progressing quickly enough.
It was about a hundred miles inland from the university, deep in the mountains, remote and difficult to get to. There were small towns in the general area on small, narrow blacktop roads on the other side of the mountain. Most movement of people and supplies, however, was by helicopter except for those of us who were responsible for the day-to-day running of the research.
The new chamber was built larger, which clearly indicated their ultimate goal: movement of men. The electrical power source was increased and stabilized; the computers provided more data crunching and analysis; and, the trials included more species from mice to guinea pigs to cats to small dogs to chimps.
A few were killed as the power application necessary was fine-tuned for size. Animals continued to disappear, however, but the 'to when' remained a mystery and the object of much debate. Everybody was fixated on Time but what if it wasn't Time, at all? This wasn't necessarily a scientific debate in my mind. This was a debate about the unknown, about something we didn't understand.
I proposed my thoughts over meals and watercooler talk. It seemed to me that there could be three options but that time was only one of them. Since physics wasn't my field, I related the discussion to entertainment. Time travel related to Dr. Who, which involved travel in time while remaining in the same location. Spatial travel related to Star Trek, which involved movement from one place to another but in the same time.
The third was what I got the most teasing and joking about; what I called reality travel. Neither time nor spatial were involved, but travel was to a different reality or alternate reality or alternate existence. It soon became known in the lab as 'Taryn's Otherland' and I quickly dropped it. Tracking sensors were used on the animals to help with the determination of what happened to them.
First they used the monitoring from outside the chamber and received no feedback, at all. Then then figured out a way to have the monitoring sensor inside the chamber as part of the device and a feed out in the lab. A 3-dimensional graphics program was used to locate the sensor relative to the lab's location.
The disappearing subjects were going straight down from the lab initially. Some remained there unmoving and others moved down the slope a few or more feet before stopping.
A few continued moving down the slope and away. They decided this proved that the disappearance was going back in time. Directly below us was a massive volume of concrete so it stood to reason that they went back in time at least as far as before the construction of this facility. Just how far back, however, they had no idea. Of course, being smarter than me, they discounted my other option completely. That brought the activity to today. This weekend was monitoring the movements of some of the animals.
A difference this weekend, however, was to leave the 'portal' open but enclosed to see if a return might be possible. I was to learn that was also an added reason for the additional security, just in case something did find its way back to our side. The shift started out very normal, even with the extra armed guards in the lab area. I noted the status and readings of the equipment, checked on all the animals for future trials, and satisfied myself that everything was in order.
The entire time I had Bo at my side as I moved around the lab. He had become quite adept at staying near without getting in my way as I moved, like he could somehow anticipate my actions and shift where he was in relation to me.
Once satisfied, I moved back to the monitoring desk, familiarized myself with the screens, and settled into some activities I brought with me, namely getting ready for my hike after this weekend's duty was over.
I had repacked my backpack in a hurry after it was inspected by the sergeant, so I first took everything out again and repacked it the way I wanted it. Then, I did the same thing to Bo's pack and hung both on the back of the desk chair I was sitting on.
The sergeant and corporal from outside were now in the lab. I was told that two others were at the desk by the elevator. Both were in full gear including side arms strapped to their legs.
Corporal Anderson still had his assault weapon across his chest. It all seemed like a lot of overkill that I tried to ignore and to focus on my responsibilities. It wasn't easy and was even more difficult for Bo who wasn't used to the two extra people in the room with us, especially people who did not seem relaxed and easy. Their tension seemed to transmit to Bo and I was bending over to soothe him when the unexpected happened. I felt the faint change in the air before I actually heard anything and Bo seemed to react to the same thing.
The chamber had just gone live. I turned my head to the large chamber from the bent over position I was in from soothing Bo and saw first the red indicator light over the double door start flashing and then the air inside the chamber almost seemed to warp.
By the time I was standing up, a fat rabbit appeared on the floor of the chamber. Bo started walking toward it, chasing rabbits is a favorite pastime of his, but I called him back before he moved two paces. Nothing had ever come back the other way to us before. I reached for the phone and pushed a button that sent an alert signal to key members of the research team. They would be on their way to the facility without the delay of verbal communication of the issue. The alert was restricted to use for a short list of reasons … this was one of the them, a return from the other side.
As I was replacing the phone, I glanced up at movement near the chamber's front where Anderson had been standing when the system went active. He looked at the rabbit, then to the sergeant, and to me, "One of yours, Doc?" I looked at both of them and shook my head. "We didn't use rabbits." Conflicting or misunderstood orders, perhaps, but suddenly they were both moving to the chamber. Everyone agreed that nothing could come back through the portal and into the lab. The chance of contamination, disease, or an unfamiliar species could be devastating to our environment, our society, and ourselves.
That was something my specialty had influence on. There was protocol for handling this and specially trained people. The researchers understood the orders to mean confinement within the chamber as not meaning 'into the lab'. These guys apparently understood that the chamber was a part of 'into the lab' and they were about to neutralize the threat.
I screamed to them. The system had to fully shutdown before the chamber could be opened and there was no reason to open the chamber until the proper personnel arrived to deal with it. I saw them continue to approach the chamber, their weapons at the ready. I continued to scream but as they reached to activate the opening of the chamber, I went to my knees and took Bo into my arms, holding him tight.
I was afraid of ricochet bullets if they fired their weapons. We were surrounded by bulletproof glass, titanium, aluminum, and high-strength steel … and lots and lots of concrete making up the walls, floor and ceiling. There was too much material that would deflect bullets and not enough that would absorb them, besides us.
Kneeling down in a hug of Bo, the sound of the chamber opening wide with its hydraulics, brought a bigger concern than bullets. The sound of the system became pronounced without the buffering from the chamber.
But, more significant, was the sensation of the air around us changing.
When I opened my eyes to look, the very air seemed to be warped in waves rushing past into the deeper parts of the room and bouncing off the solid walls. Then … there was brilliant, blinding white. I didn't know if it was ocular or in the brain. If I had that active thought, it wasn't a debate within myself.
There wasn't time. Because what was brilliant, blinding white had instantly changed to an empty, black void. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Continued in Chapter 2.