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Parallel

4 Feb

As soon as Wilkins was ushered into the Oval Office, the president quickly moved to settle the physicist’s nerves. In front of his desk there were two couches facing each other across a small table, and he waved Wilkins to one while coming around his desk and taking the other.

“Thank you for coming, professor, I can’t say how pleased I was when your letter reached me. Your invention promises a whole new world for us. Hah! A whole string of new worlds. Fantastic! I’m not as well up on your field as I’d like to be, but please tell me a bit more.”

Wilkins paused before replying. He’d never expected things to move so fast. In fact he’d expected to have to work slowly through layers of advisors, explaining the Copenhagen Interpretation, the Many-Worlds theory, Schrodinger’s cat, and probably basic quantum physics to a string of scientist-turned-beaurocrats just to get a hearing. He’d certainly never expected that the reaction to his letter would be a military helicopter and a trip to the White House.

“In essence,” he said, “what I’ve found is a way to penetrate from our universe into a huge number of ‘Earths that might have been’. Parallel worlds that started out the same way as our world, but travelled down some other path at some critical choice in time. It’s always been a theoretical possibility, but I’ve found a practical way to do it.”

His excitement began to build as he began to expound on the huge opportunities that could come. “The thing is, I’m sure that vast numbers of these worlds must exist that are more primitive than our own. We have a chance now to really do something about the population pressures that are the fundimental problem behind so much of the worlds ills. Imagine how many people would be willing to leave the packed cities and the rat race of modern life, and live as master of all they survey on some more primitive world.”

“And your collegues?” the President asked, “Do they agree that the process is feasible, or are they more hesitant?”

Wilkins looked abashed. “The thing is, Mr President, that they really think I’m a bit nuts on this. That’s why I had to write the letter directly to you. I needed someone who would realise how fantastically valuable this was.”

“And I do! You have no idea how glad I am that you wrote that letter. My advisors had assured me that no-one in the country – no one in the whole world – had any inkling of an actual mechanism that could access a para-world.”

The president touched a remote control in his pocket, and a section of wall slid aside to reveal a hidden elevator. “Come with me now,” he said, “there is someone you *have* to meet. The only other person in the world who can really understand just what you have achieved.” He smiled and hurried the scientist to the elevator.

He really was impressed with what Wilkins had done. And Wilkins was right, many people would be willing to be the master of some primitive world. It was such a pity, he thought, that there were also worlds more *advanced* than this Earth. However his practiced politician’s smile stayed in place as he walked the scientist towards his meeting with the hidden ruler of Earth.

(c) 2013

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Writing practice – shootout in the High street

8 Jan

<I’m trying to do an hour of something creative every night. This time it was a bit of 1950’s Private Eye fiction>

There’s no reason to suspect an ambush on a busy city street. No reason, unless you have managed to attract the attention – and displeasure – of one of the city’s ‘crime lords’. It wasn’t much of a city, and they weren’t so much ‘crime lords’ as criminal upper-middle-class, but a bullet is still a bullet, whether fired by a top of the line assasin or a low rent thug.

I’d been walking along High Street, an older part of the city, and minding my own business when the first bullet slammed  into the wall beside me. I suppose quality does show. The lack of discipline shown by the gunman was fortunately matched by his lousy aim. I’ve been shot at before – a few too many times – and my body reacted before I was really aware what had happened. I dived for a parked car, crouching down and looking around to see how bad it was. Most of the people around me didn’t even notice the shot, though a few nearby showed more reaction, in some cases clearly looking around for a shooter.

I saw a couple of rough looking guys approaching me, a tall blonde in a worn leather coat and shorter (and chunkier) guy in jeans and a tatty jersey. They didn’t look too friendly, though I think short-and-chunky’s expression was more one of annoyance for the premature firing from their comrade somewhere on the rooftop. The leather coat parted and I saw a sawn-off shotgun coming up. A good weapon for the terrain, but blondie hadn’t practiced the manouever well enough. He was still bringing the weapon up as I drew my own pistol and put a hasty 9mm round somewhere in his torso.

I’d like to claim that I put it exactly where I wanted, but the truth is that I have no idea where the shot went. My instructors had always harped on the importance of getting a shot off quickly, even if it only distracted your opponent, and I’m sure they would have been pleased with my reactions, which did indeed distract him. In fact he was so distracted that he collapsed slowly onto the pavement and started gently leaking.

Short-and-chunky had been trying to pull his weapon from behind his back, which would probably have worked much better if  his jersey hadn’t been so old and ratty. I think the wool caught on his handgun and slowed him down. Whatever the cause, he was still drawing as his partner received an instant dose of lead poisoning. I’m pretty sure that something must have screwed up his action because his next reaction was lightning fast. He dived to the side, ending up behind another car, and only then stopped to untangle himself and get his gun free. And he *didn’t* stick his head around the side of his cover; instead he dropped down and fired underneath the car – three quick shots which would have done me serious damage if I had stayed where I was when he saw me last.

By now there were screams from pedestrians all around me, and people were running in all directions. The distraction was probably what saved me from a follow-up round from the rooftop sniper as I left my cover and swerved into a nearby alleyway.

I charged down the alleyway full-tilt, my pistol in my hand, and no doubt making quite a spectacle of myself. I didn’t, however, come out of the alleyway the same way. It isn’t easy to move fast and make it look like you are only dawdling, but my instructors had – eventually – managed to train me in that useful skill, and I managed to look calm and not a centre of attraction as turned the corner, my smoking handgun no longer in sight.

I spent the next twenty minutes making sure that no one had followed me out of that short but lethal encounter. I changed direction several times, ducked into a number of shops, usually leaving by a different door and more than once from a different shop. My jacket was reversable and I wore it both ways, as well as carrying it over my shoulder. But the biggest change I could make to my appearance wasn’t anything to do with my clothing, it was changing from being by myself to being part of a group.

Again, there are tricks of body language and movement that allow one to join a group of people, ask a few questions and look – at least for a few moments – as if one is part of the group. Knowing the right questions is important as well. The worst thing to do is to ask for directions. The natural reaction of strangers when asked *where* something is,  is to point, if not an arm, at least the body. If the whole group, with the exception of the questioner, turn slightly, then you have a giant neon sign saying “this guy just walked up to a bunch of strangers” over your head. Not good.

While I distanced myself from the recent unpleasantness, I had plenty of time to think about what had just happened.