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The Hour House

Two
The Lab


The Military Science Army had been in place for years. In all the years since its institution it had never been so well funded as it was under Madgelie’s reign. It was mandatory that they give a report to the Empress. Shortly after the year anniversary of Madgelie’s coronation, three commanding officers of the MSA came forward to present their achievements. Madgelie sat back in her chair eyes fixed on Alfred as he slid a folder across her desk.

“I was expecting a more substantial report, Commander Prufrock. This time machine I see here is all theory, plans, nothing more,” she said opening the thin file. “Is this all I’m getting?”

“I was hoping you’d approve of seeing a demonstration. Some of the additional data and calculations were too valuable to be moved from their secure location,” Alfred said.

She didn’t speak immediately, just looked up at him, her mouth open slightly.

“Where is it located?” she asked.

“Schrödinger’s Villa, Your Excellency.”

She leaned back in her chair and looked over the files again in disbelief, “And it’s finished?
Ready for testing?”

“We’re only waiting for your permission to press the button,” Alfred said. She closed the file
and nodded.

“Then we shall leave today,” she said standing up. “You all are dismissed.”

The group saluted her and headed out the door. She stood in place for a few moments allowing a slow grin to spread across her face. She placed her fingertips on the folder.

“A time machine. Alfred, your genius continues to reach new heights. I’m not sure the world can keep up,” She picked up the folder and tucked it under her arm. “But I can.”

Shrödinger’s Villa was a highly secluded area, Getting there by car, plane or helicopter was too difficult, the constantly undulating wind currents made it extremely difficult for a human to maneuver on their own. A teleportation pad would disrupt the machine’s function. For this trip, baels were necessary. They had been riding wind currents of all sorts for ages. Madgelie saddled up her trusted elder bael, Tema. As she readied herself for departure, she was surprised to see among the group Gilbert and his bael, Gringolet.

“Gilbert? I thought you were still at the Academy?” she said.

“This is counts as an internship. I receive course credit for acting as an assistant to my brother,” he answered.

“Plus you know I can’t fly a bael for anything,” Alfred added. Madgelie found herself laughing much harder than she should have. She was just so giddy, the idea that under her watchful rule there would be a break through like this made her overwhelmingly happy.

“All right, gentlemen,” she said. “Security escorts shall take the lead and flank us. We shall reach the Villa by late afternoon.”

With remarkable grace, the team of bael riders took off.

***

They arrived at Schrödinger’s Villa in good time, at about two thirty six in the afternoon. Madgelie and Alfred left for a briefing on the machine’s status. Gilbert might have felt slighted at being left out, but since he was not an official cadet, and the only reason he was even at such a high security lab was because of his brother, he didn’t say anything. This time.
Instead of moping or wandering, Gilbert took Tema and Gringolet to their stables. He carefully arranged them in beds of straw and leaned against Gringolet’s side as he got settled. He pressed the back of his head against Gringolet’s scales.

“Someday, I’m going to be able to talk to you,” he said. Baels were most interesting creatures. They were flexible and serpentine, having two powerful hind legs. Their arms were thin, but scaly wings stretched from their appendages. They were the favored way of travel when technology failed to serve its purpose of being convenient.

Gringolet swung his tail around and nudged Gilbert’s arm.

“Yeah, I know the voice box is at home. I’ll work on it when I get back,” he said. Tema leaned her head over her stall and snorted. He laughed. For all his failings in dealing with people, Gilbert could read baels pretty well. He knew for a certainty that they had distinctive personalities and their grunts, growls and roars were all a form of talking as complex as human speech. He could not understand it all, but he knew enough to make a machine to react to various vibrations in Gringolet’s throat, translating it into sounds humans were familiar with.

“It’s going to be a pretty eventful week, I hope you guys are ready.”

Tema tossed her head in his direction and Gilbert smirked. He stood up and dusted off his flying uniform.

“I’m going to go check on the mad scientist and his eager patron. You two sit tight,” he said.

He left the stalls bracing himself for the sharp tones of human speech, wishing that it could be soft yet powerful like bael growls.

***

Gilbert was permitted to join Alfred, Madgelie and the head of the lab at the tail end of the briefing. He stood just behind his brother, holding his chin aloft and his shoulders square.

“So if the machine is basically ready, can we do a demonstration tomorrow?” Alfred asked.

“Certainly, if you all wish it,” the lab director informed him.

“Empress, I think we should proceed with the demonstration as soon as possible. I’ll get myself ready to preside over the experiment tomorrow,” he said, turning to Madgelie.

She waved her hand, “Yes, you proceed as you see fit.”

“The machine requires a lot of energy to be run. We need someone to help channel it properly,” the director explained. “No one can seem to do it as effectively as you can, Professor Prufrock.”

Alfred all but glowed and Gilbert did all he could to remain expressionless, but a prideful smirk managed to cross his features. Madgelie grimaced and darted her eyes at the wall.

“I’d like to have my quarters prepared. I shall be in them shortly. In the meantime is there a place where I can speak with Professor Prufrock?” she said.

“There certainly is. Follow me,” the director said. They went to a room a few doors down.

“That will be all. Thank you for your assistance,” Madgelie said. As soon as she left Madgelie’s eyes narrowed and she bared her grinding teeth. Gilbert knew that Alfred was going to be chewed out and for all intents and purposes, he should have left. He couldn’t leave his brother, not like this.

“Alfred, I thought I told you to hold off dangerous experiments like this,” Madgelie said.
Alfred bristled a little, but kept his cool, “Madge, this is safe. I’ve double-checked all the calculations, I’m going to check all the machinery and keep a close eye on the read outs. I’m going to be okay.”

“This is a direct order. Do not run the demonstration tomorrow,” she demanded.

“You can’t hold me back like this! I have to do this experiment or else more than just my life will be at stake!”

“What about—”

“Madgelie, I’m the only one who can run the currents just so. If anything goes wrong tomorrow everyone in that lab will die yourself included. You’ve got to let me do this.”

Madgelie looked down at her boots and leaned against the desk. Gilbert released a breath, she was relaxing, though her worry was not allayed. She always reacted that way when Alfred used her proper first name outside of official company. Her mouth twisted in displeasure.

“Stop trying to repay me for that stupid mistake that I made years and years ago…” she said looking up at him.

“Don’t try to place the blame on yourself. I was involved with the building of that mistake too,” he said. “I just want to be in full control tomorrow to make sure that things go as planned.”

She grit her teeth, understanding the logic of his choice. Gilbert sensing that the argument was mostly over, shook his head.

“I’ll check on the machine’s status and give you a full report in an hour,” Gilbert said to Alfred. His brother glanced at him and Gilbert took his leave. Gilbert wondered just what would happen if they could stabilize a time portal. Who knew what kind of technologies would follow? There were too many to count. Tomorrow would go down in history Gilbert was certain of it.

***

The room that the testing took place in was austere, white and silver where everywhere. Once the lights dimmed, the room took on a bluish glow from the monitors. Madgelie and Gilbert were situated on a platform just above the lab. Alfred was in a streamlined power suit some distance from the base of the machine. His hands were strapped to two large sliding gauges. Madgelie gazed on; her displeasure at having Alfred involved in the dangerous part of the demonstration was only evident to Gilbert who had known her for so long. Gilbert crossed his arms and held his head aloft. He was much too impressed with his brother’s work to dip his head low today.
Madgelie, Gilbert and the small crowd of observers pulled their goggles on.

“Let us proceed. Start up the quartz vortexes,” Alfred instructed. Two large metal circles, each with quartz spheres inlaid in two-foot intervals began to spin.

“First energy flux,” Alfred said pushing one gauge forward. Gilbert kept an eye on the read out.

“Stabilization initiating.”

The circles rotated faster and a purple light began to glow around them.

“Second energy flux,” Alfred said, pushing the next gauge forward. “Stabilization at five percent.”

The spheres spun faster; when the stabilization got to fifty percent, Alfred reduced the amount of energy on one gauge by half. Madgelie hardly breathed.

“I think he’s got it. I think we’re going to get a time portal,” she said. Gilbert grinned from ear to ear. His brother was a genius. He’d turn the science world upside down and sideways. The stabilization reached seventy-five percent, and Alfred halved the other energy gauge. By now the circles were generating enough energy to keep themselves sustained.

“Stabilization at eighty percent,” one of the lab assistants reported. Alfred smiled and Madgelie relaxed. She looked at him from behind her dark goggles. Gilbert couldn’t see what her eyes looked like but if they were anything like he suspected…

The percentages went up in smaller and smaller increments until the stabilization seemed stalled at ninety-six percent. No one worried, they only waited. The rings began to spin faster and faster suddenly and the stabilization jumped from ninety-six to thirty percent in seconds. Alfred drew a sharp breath.

“Everyone back up and get down,” he said in a remarkably calm voice. As the other scientists ducked down behind protective glass, Madgelie stood up.

“What is going on?” she asked.

“Madge, get down,” he repeated, coming up the stairs toward where she had been sitting.

“Alfred Prufrock, you tell me what’s going on right now!” she shouted. He didn’t respond, but tackled her to the ground and shielded her body from the explosion. When the dust cleared, most of the machine was destroyed. All was not in vain, for floating in the center of the lab was a time portal. Gilbert was the first to recover.

“You did it, Al! You did it!” he cried. “You made history. This is a time portal! A real life time portal! Wow…”

Alfred smiled as he helped Madgelie to her feet. She couldn’t suppress her joy and she threw her arms around him and gave him a hug.

“You’re such an egg head…” she whispered.

“I’m proud of it,” he whispered back. A loud screeching sound came out of the portal.

“Please tell me that time portals are supposed to make that sound,” Madgelie said. Alfred turned and pushed her behind him.

“You and Gil get out of here. Go to Gringolet and Tema and leave,” he said. Madgelie closed her eyes tightly and turned to go, Gilbert close behind.

“What’s going on? Do you have any idea?” Gilbert asked.

Madgelie shook her head, “I can only hope your brother knows what he’s doing.”

They hurried down the hallways of the compound toward the stables where their baels were kept. Together they left the building their baels a few yards behind them. Madgelie climbed onto Tema, as Gilbert climbed on Gringolet. She shot one last look at the building before taking to the sky. They had barely caught an updraft when there was a loud crash. Gilbert turned to look but turned his gaze ahead once he saw what had appeared behind them.

“Madge, don’t look back,” he said. That was the worst possible thing to say to the her, for she almost never listened when “don’t” was in the phrasing. She turned and saw a big, black creature forcing its way out of the building. The only thing she could think of was that Alfred was still there buried beneath a pile of rubble. Madgelie turned Tema around completely and started flying back.

“No don’t!” Gilbert cried. The creature saw Madgelie returning and as soon as she was close enough, it stretched one clawed hand forward and hit Tema’s wing. The elder bael crashed and crushed its winged arm beneath its own weight. Madge fell off her back and was rescued by Gilbert who dodged the creature’s thrashing because Gringolet was smaller, more agile and younger. It roared loudly, making Madgelie and Gilbert wince at the sound. It lumbered forward, a huge hulking black mass with glowing white eyes.

Gilbert caught another updraft and flew full speed ahead. Madgelie looked back, speechless.

“What…Is…How can this…” she sputtered.

“After it goes some distance away, we’ll loop back to look for survivors. My brother will be there,” Gilbert told her. Madgelie sighed and looked back.

“I know…Believe me I know.”
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February 2014

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