Through The Looking Glass
By Stephanie B
I'd like to take a few moments to thank all the wonderful people who have helped me with my story. After a few discussions on the MORFS forum [http://morfs.19.forumer.com/index.php] I had to alter a fair bit of background information on a few of the characters. I was getting a bit discouraged and almost abandoned the story completely. The positive feedback and encouragement I received changed my mind. What turned out to be a relatively small rewrite allowed me to complete the story.
Unfortunately I wrote myself into a bit of a corner about two-thirds of the way into the story. I needed a powerful character for a few chapters and didn't want to invent a new one. I was lucky enough to get help from Shrike, the author of Synergy and Blitz. Part three of this story features Synergy and a cameo appearance from Blitz in the final chapter. In addition to making sure that I didn't write something that was out of character, Shrike also gave me several suggestions, provided proof reading and is an excellent hunter of the many typos that I seem to generate.
I would also like to give a special thanks to Holly. Her ability to find typos, grammatical errors or just the wrong word is amazing! I know she's an extremely busy person, but if you can beg, plead or blackmail her into editing your work you will definitely be better off for it.
If you did not get this story from the official MORFS web site, you really need to check out all the incredible stories that this universe has to offer. This story, as well as all the official MORFS stories can be accessed at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org
Tetsuo opened the doors to the medical facility to find Todd Callaway and Dr. Kobayashi standing in the hallway yelling at each other. Several people were standing around listening but tried to look like they were working.
“You have no idea what that will do to her!” Dr Kobayashi yelled. “You can’t just cut her off without testing it first!”
“So how the hell do you suggest I test it,” Todd yelled back. “You have another person I can try it on?”
Tetsuo stepped up to the two men and said, “Gentlemen, please.” The two of them looked at Tetsuo and paused for a moment. “Can we go somewhere a little more private?” he said, indicating Todd’s office down the hall.
The two men silently followed Tetsuo into the office before starting all over again. “I will not allow you to experiment on a person like that!” the doctor started.
“I’m trying to save her life!” Todd replied. “Or have you forgotten that this is killing her?”
“What is going on?” Tetsuo said loud enough to get their attention. “I got a call that I should come down here and this is what I have to deal with?” The two men look at him and both attempt to explain at the same time. Tetsuo just held up his hand to stop them before looking at Dr. Kobayashi, saying, “Please explain.”
“He wants to cut off the flow of energy to her,” he simply stated.
Tetsuo looked at Todd in surprise, “You have figured out how to do that?”
“Yes, but he won’t let me set up the equipment to do it!” As he said this he pointed to the doctor, using all four fingers. He had heard that this was some sort of insult in Japanese culture. By the reaction that he got, he must have gotten it right. Dr Kobayashi turned red and stormed out of the office, slamming the door behind himself.
Tetsuo suspected that Todd had done that on purpose, but since he was American, he wasn’t sure and decided to ignore it. Instead he wanted to know about Alice. “Are you able to stop the energy transfer without harming her?” he asked.
“That I don’t know yet,” Todd explained. “We’ve been able to determine how she’s getting the energy. It similar to the portals she’s generating. There seems to be a permanent portal between her and the singularity she’s pulling energy through.”
“So what will happen when she is no longer able to draw energy?” Tetsuo asked.
“What I suspect will happen is that she will be able to wake up on her own, without opening any more portals,” Todd explained. “The only issue I see, is that we don’t know if the energy is doing anything else to her, or if she has become dependent on it somehow.”
“So what is the worst case for her?” Tetsuo asked.
“Worst case would be that she dies,” he said bluntly. “But she’s dying anyway. Every day she’s a little bit weaker, even with your bio elementals repairing the damage that’s been caused. I’m afraid that she’ll open a portal one of these days and it’ll kill her.”
There was an awkward silence in the room for a moment before Tetsuo finally said, “Get your equipment ready. I’ll have a talk with Dr. Kobayashi and inform him of my decision.”
Todd looked a bit guilty as he said, “Sarah is already putting it in place. I was attempting to… distract the doctor.” Seeing the expression on Tetsuo’s face he quickly added, “We would never have turned it on without talking with you first.”
“I had better go find him then,” Tetsuo said as he left the office.
Sarah, Tetsuo and Dr. Kobayashi watched through the observation room window as Todd made a few final adjustments to the field generator in the corner of the room, . It was a crude device sitting on a small tripod with no case and the electronic boards exposed. It looked a little like an old style video camera with a large gold colored lens. Instead of an optical lens the working end of the device was coated with gold. Todd finally plugged in the large power cable of the field generator and left the room. A moment later he came into the observation room with a remote control unit and an eCom in his hand.
“Okay, we’re about to turn on the field,” he said into the eCom. “I want you to tell me if the power output level changes, and by how much.” Then he hit a button on the unit to turn on the speaker phone option and placed it on one of the benches. He then asked the people in the room, “Is everyone ready?” After getting a nod from each person he said, “Okay, let’s do this.”
“Power output is currently at 73%. Only slightly higher than normal for this time of day,” the voice said from the eCom.
“In 3… 2… 1… GO!” At the instant Todd said go, he hit the button on the remote. Several lights on the field generator in the room came on and stated to flash. A pale blue bubble started to form in the room and surrounded the bed and most of the monitoring equipment in the room.
“Okay, levels are dropping. We’re at 72.5%... 72.0… 71.5… 71.0… leveling off at 70.7%,” the voice on the eCom said.
“Great, does that match the power usage on the city grid?” Todd asked.
“Power usage is reading to within .01% of expected output. That could be power loss in conversion, or a calibration error,” the voice answered.
“Perfect. Let me know if that changes,” Todd said before hitting the button to disconnect the call. “It looks like you did it again, Sarah.” She just smiled and checked the readings on her tablet.
“What do we do now?” asked Tetsuo
“We wait,” answered Todd. “There’s not much more we can do at the moment.”
Dr. Kobayashi was looking at his own tablet, checking the read out from the monitoring equipment. “We have a problem,” he said. Just as he was about to show the readout to the rest of them, an alarm started sounding in the room.
“Room one, code blue. Room one, code blue,” came from an overhead speaker. Dr. Kobayashi burst out of the observation room and ran through the hall to the room next door. He entered the room almost the same time as the crash team. They all stopped at the edge of the force field and looked through the window at the three in the observation room.
“Go ahead, you can just step through it,” Todd almost yelled into the intercom. The doctor was the first to move and stepped through the force field without any noticeable effect. The rest of the team was only a half a step behind him. One placed a mask over Alice’s face and started to force air into her lungs, while another started CPR.
Another member of the crash team appeared to be a bio elemental. She looked at Dr. Kobayashi and said, “Her bio energy is all messed up and I can’t get her heart started.”
Dr Kobayashi looked directly at Todd and yelled, “Turn it off, NOW!” Todd looked at Tetsuo who just nodded. He hit the button on the remote and the pale blue field faded out. The eCom on the bench started to ring and Todd hit the talk button. An excited voice on the other end could be heard as he held it to his ear.
“Yeah, I know. We had to turn off the field generator,” he explained. “We’ll have to try again later.” He hung up before the person on the other end could ask any more questions. Todd looked at the people in the room working on Alice and said quietly to himself, “Please, work!”
The elemental put her hand on the shoulder of the person doing CPR to get him to stop. “It’s okay, her heart is beating on its own now.” They all stopped working and stepped back for a moment. The alarms had all turned off and the readings on the monitors slowly started to go back to normal. Todd finally let out the breath he didn’t realize he had been holding.
Abruptly, he stood up and headed for the door. As he hit the door to open it he said, “Damn it!” and stormed through.
Tetsuo stood to go after him but was stopped by Sarah before he could get to the door. “Leave him,” she said. “He’ll be in a right fowl mood now. Let him calm down first.”
Tetsuo looked at her for a moment and sighed. “I want to know what went wrong as soon as possible.” He took another look at the little girl before also leaving the room.
Sarah sighed as he left and looked at the tiny girl in bed. As she looked, she noticed that Dr. Kobayashi was gone. “Aw crap!” she said to herself before bolting out the door. She found him a few minutes later in Todd’s office holding his nose, attempting to get the bleeding to stop. Todd was nowhere to be found. She looked at the doctor for a moment and said, “Aye it’s broken. You better go have that looked at.”
Once he was off to have his nose looked at, Sarah picked up the phone and attempted to call Todd. After three attempts she gave up and started to figure where he would be. She had to access the computer to find what she was looking for and then headed out the door. The elevator opened at ground level and she made her way out of the building and headed through a park. The lights of the dome were on at full brightness as she looked up. It was easy to believe that she was in a park of any modern city and not floating on a big rock at something like 40,000km above the Earth.
Sarah pushed that thought out of her mind and focused on her destination. She only hoped that she was right and that Todd would be there. As she got to the end of the path through the park, she found the playground she was looking for. It was filled with young children playing in the sand box, going down the slides or laughing with each other on the swings. Several adults, most of them women sat around the playground on benches watching the children play and talking with each other. Since there weren’t too many men, it was easy to locate Todd sitting on one of the benches a little further from the playground than the others. She slowly made her way over to the bench and sat down beside him and waited for him to notice. He sat there massaging his hand. A bruise was already starting to show on the knuckles.
After a few minutes of silence Todd finally said, “What happened to me, Sarah? When did I stop caring?”
Sarah huffed and then said, “You know the answer to that one. I dinnae need to tell you, do I?”
“No, I guess not,” he answered after a moment. He looked at the children playing and sighed, “This thing with Alice is stirring up some old memories. I miss Rebecca so much.”
Sarah put her arm around him and let him lean against her. “Aye, I know you do. I’d be worried if you dinnae miss her.”
“I would have thought that after eight years it wouldn’t hurt so much.” He tried to smile, but failed completely.
“I dinnae think that the number of year has anything to do with it,” she said in a soft voice. She watched the children play and ignored the tear running down his cheek. “Losing a child is never something that you ever get over.”
“Look at them,” he said, indicating the kids playing and the adults watching over them. “They have no idea. How many of them are going to be changed by MORFS? It’s been over fifty years we’ve been dealing with it, and kids are still dying.”
“Aye, but not nearly as many,” Sarah said, trying to be positive.
“Yeah, tell that to Alice,” he said as he wiped his face. “I’m here to help, and I nearly kill her myself. I don’t know if I can do this.”
“We need to keep trying,” she said. “You cannae walk away. I know you better than that.”
“No, I guess not,” he said again. “I’m going for a walk. This place is just making more depressed. Want to join me?”
“Aye, that office is getting to me as well,” she answered and stood up with him. They walked around the entire park several times, talking about some of the many things that they had shared in their long friendship. As the lights started to dim they found a patio restaurant, sat outside and ordered dinner. They watched the stars slowly fill the domed sky as the lights continued to dim. He told her about Rebecca again and she listened as if it was the first time she had heard the stories. They finally headed back to the residential building and said good night to each other with a friendly hug.
The next morning Sarah was up early. After a shower and a light breakfast she headed to the medical center to start going over the data from their failed attempt the day before. As she opened the office door Todd greeted her with a smile, “Good morning, nice of you to finally show up.”
Sarah double checked the time on the tablet in her hand before saying, “What time did you get here? It’s still early.”
“Yeah, I couldn’t sleep,” he answered. “I had a few ideas that I wanted to look into anyway.” He pulled up several graphs and charts on the wall screen from the monitoring equipment that they had been using the day before. “I wanted to see if there was any power feedback or spikes that would have caused her heart to stop. I haven’t found any reason for it yet. It just doesn’t make sense.”
“Well, maybe it didnae have anything to do with the power,” she commented.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Sometime, with a new piece of equipment it’ll be working fine until you pull the plug,” she explained. “As the power that was stored in the capacitors and coils discharges, it can cause all kinds of problems.” Todd got an excited look on this face and started to look for another file.
“Ah, found it,” he said as he pulled up a three dimensional scan of Alice. “This was taken about a week ago. You can see that dark dense mass in her chest. The medical people here tell me it shouldn’t be there. There shouldn’t be anything there.” The scan showed a dark irregular shaped lump of something at the base of her neck, behind her first rib.
“Could that have an effect on her heart?” asked Sarah. “It doesnae look like it’s close enough.”
“I have no idea,” Todd said. “We’ll have to have one of the doctors look at it.”
“You might want to ask someone other than that Kobayashi fellow,” she said as she smiled. “I think you put his nose out of joint yesterday.”
“You might be right,” Todd stated, completely missing the double meaning in her comment. “I’ll have to apologize to him about that.”
“Well I had an idea for the field as well,” she continued. “I want to be able to vary the strength of the field.”
Todd immediately picked up on that. “Good idea, we should be able to control the amount of power she can get that way.”
“Aye, instead of cutting her off, maybe we can wean her off of the power slowly,” she explained. “I’ll get started on it.”
Sarah pulled up the field generator schematics and started making changes as Todd gathered the data he needed to be able to talk to the doctors and ask about the new organ in Alice’s chest. Just as he was about head out the door they heard a light knock. Todd stepped over to the door and opened it to find Dr. Kobayashi standing in the hall. A large bruise had formed across his nose and looked quite painful. He bowed and looked at the floor before saying, “Please forgive my intrusion. May I speak with you for a moment?”
Todd stepped back and held the door for him and said, “I was just coming to look for you, actually.”
Kaito Kobayashi was the only son of a poor family. He had lived his entire life in a small town south of Okinawa City before earning a full scholarship to university. Hard work and excellent grades allowed him to continue his education until he graduated from medical school. He had hoped to earn his father’s respect after graduating in the top of his class, but that was not that case. Several years working at one of the local hospitals allowed him to further his career and become a successful doctor. When he applied, and was ultimately accepted to be the head of medicine in the new city of Tenkei, he again hoped for his father’s respect. Unfortunately, his father turned his back on his only son, calling him a traitor for leaving his people and country.
Kaito devoted his life to his work after this and had never spoken to his father or family again. Hard work, professionalism and loyalty to his employer continued to be his driving forces. When Tetsuo Sakamoto arrived with Alice several weeks ago and the small child became sick, he had felt honored to be allowed to help her. He worked even harder to find the cause of her coma and to return her to Tetsuo. He had never been told of the relationship between the child and his employer, and he never asked, thinking it was a personal and private matter. The long hours with little progress were starting to get to him, but he continued to look for the cause of the poor child’s condition. He would do almost anything to please Tetsuo, whom he looked up to and respected more that any other man he knew.
Then the foreigners arrived. Kaito understood the reason for their arrival and what it really meant to him. He had failed! However, this was the decision of Tetsuo, and he was not asked for his opinion, nor did he expect to be. He provided all the information that was requested and continued to monitor the child, but Kaito was never the same after this. He had failed the only man who had shown him kindness and the small child was now in the hands of the American and his animal friend.
Living on Okinawa, Kaito had been in close contact with Americans all his life. He hated them! They were selfish, self centered and arrogant, but worst of all, they were reckless. He had expected nothing less from this one. As the days passed and the foreigners started to work with his people, this was only confirmed. They took all the work that they had done and shared nothing. They proposed experimenting on the child and somehow talked Tetsuo into agreeing to it. Then they almost killed her.
Kaito couldn’t take it any more and confronted the American, Callaway. He had barely been able to say more than two or three words before he had been attacked and the American stormed out. Kaito returned to his office and combed through the data they had gathered during their reckless experiment, bound to prove they had caused the child’s near death. He would have them thrown off the case and removed from the city in disgrace. He spent the entire night working on the data looking at every minute detail; he knew the answer was there, he just needed to find it.
Then he’d finally found the cause. The shock and humiliation of his mistake was almost too much to bear. They had not caused the problem at all. He had missed a piece of the puzzle, and now that he saw it, it all made sense. He intended to resign immediately, but needed to make sure the child would be cared for. The others needed to understand the problem and how to correct it before it was too late for her.
When he was ready, Kaito gathered the data that he had found and walked the short distance to the American’s office. He stood outside the door for a moment, trying to make himself knock on the door. He was finally able to convince his arm to move, but the knock was so light he doubted that anyone heard it.
The American stood in front of him after opening the door. Kaito bowed as he would to a superior and said, “Please forgive my intrusion. May I speak with you for a moment?”
Todd stepped back and held the door for him and said, “I was just coming to look for you, actually.”
Todd hesitated before saying in a friendly tone, “I wanted to apologize for yesterday. There was no reason for me to hit you like that.”
“Please, I have come to apologize myself,” Kaito said quickly without looking him in the eye. “I acted unprofessionally and falsely accused you. I am truly sorry and ashamed of my behavior.”
Todd turned his head in confusion and looked at Sarah for a moment. He hadn’t expected this reaction to hitting the man and couldn’t understand the change in attitude he was seeing.
Kaito looked at the large wall mounted display and notice the three dimensional display of Alice and the new organ that had grown there from MORFS. His heart sank further and he said, “I see you have found my mistake.”
“I don’t understand. What mistake are you talking about?” Todd asked as Kaito entered the room and walked over to the board. Sarah put her tablet down and walked over to the board as well. She wanted to find out what was going on. She also wanted to make sure these two men didn’t try to kill each other if things got heated again.
Kaito got to the board and started to make gestures on its surface. The image rotated and zoomed into the new organ in finer detail than either Sarah or Todd knew was available on the screen. Then he started to explain, “This is an image of the child from a few days ago, perhaps a week. As you can see, the new organ is quite large.” Todd had actually thought that is was small, only about the size of a golf ball, but dark, and very dense. He didn’t say anything and allow the other man to continue his speech as Kaito pointed to some stringy fibers that ran the entire length of the girl’s neck, along the surface of the organ and continued into her chest.
“This is the Vagus Nerve. It is one of the nerves that make up the autonomic system of all people. It starts in the Medulla Oblongata, the lower brain stem. Its main purpose is to give people a certain level of control over the autonomic systems, things like being able to hold your breath or slow your heart rate.” He turned to his tablet and added a new image to the screen. It looked identical to the original image they had on the screen earlier. He rotated and zoomed in this image to match the other one.
“As you can see in this image that was taken yesterday while your field generator was active, the new organ is slightly smaller.” The difference in size was almost too small to notice. If they were not looking for it, they would not have seen the difference at all. “If you look closely on the second image you will see that there is a tendril from the Vagus Nerve entering the organ.” Both Sarah and Todd stepped closer to the image and looked at the point that the doctor indicated. A small fiber, no larger than a hair, could be seen coming off the larger fibers and entering the organ. After that, it couldn’t be see anymore as the organ’s tissue density was far too high to be scanned. They looked at the first image from a week ago at the same point but couldn’t see the smaller fiber at all.
“I had assumed that the nerve simply passed by the organ and did not interact with it at all. I was wrong,” Kaito finally finished explaining.
Todd was the first to reply to the new information. “But I don’t understand how this has anything to do with her heart?”
Kaito added another image to the screen from his tablet. This one was the reading from her heart monitor, and showed a normal sinus rhythm. The organ was also back to its original size. As he played the image forward the organ shrank and the heart monitor showed several spikes, then it faltered and stopped beating.
“When the field was turned on and the organ was deprived of energy, it seems to have discharged into the Vagus Nerve.” As he continued to explain, he pointed to the nerve and followed it further down the girl’s chest. “The next tendril after this one feeds into the Sinoatrial Nerve within the heart. This is one of a number of nerve clusters that control heart rate and blood pressure. The discharge basically shut down her heart.”
Todd and Sarah looked at each other and smiled. Todd gave her a funny grin and said, “Well, Miss Smarty Pants, you were right!”
Kaito looked at the two and asked, “You already knew this?”
“Oh no, we wouldnae have found this if we stared at it for a week!” Sarah said, still looking between the two images.
“Sarah was just telling me that electronic circuits can behave like this when power is removed suddenly,” Todd explained. “I was coming to ask you if this was a possibility. I never would have guessed that you’d found it already.”
Sarah turned to the doctor and asked, “Why weren’t you able to start her heart again until after we turned off the field?”
“The discharge continued for almost three and a half minutes,” Kaito explained. “I don’t know if restoring the energy source had any effect at all. Her heart might have started again after the organ had finished discharging energy.”
“That was only three and a half minutes?” asked Todd in disbelief. “That was the longest three and a half minutes of my entire life!”
“I believe that the next time she opens a portal, the organ will be drained of energy and you will be able to safely reactive the field,” Kaito stated.
“Well, Sarah had another brilliant idea,” Todd replied. “She was going to modify the field so that we can vary its strength.”
Sarah continued, “Aye, then we can wean her off the power slowly.”
“Yes,” Kaito said a little excitedly. “That would be much safer, and we would be able to monitor if any more discharges occur. Is there any way that you can measure the energy level within the organ itself?”
Todd thought for a moment then said, “I still don’t know how it functions, yet. I may have to look into how the portals are created to be able to do that.”
Todd buried himself in the data that was available on portals and how they were created. Tenkei had far more data than he had access to before and it started to make him giddy. He was like a kid with a new toy. Sarah took the better part of a day to modify the field generator and test it. Once finished, the field strength could be adjusted from full off to full on, and almost any setting in between. She also added a safety system to it. If the heart monitor showed any abnormal signs, the power level of the field would automatically start to drop and continue dropping every few seconds until it was either off or the readings were back to normal. She re-installed it in the room and connected it to the heart monitor, then plugged the main power cable in and left it off.
Kaito had continued to look at all the data that was available for the new organ in Alice’s chest, which wasn’t much. He also ordered every scanner that could be used to probe the structure of the organ. Every nerve and blood vessel that entered, exited or even came close to the organ was carefully mapped and documented. External sensors were added to estimate the blood flow in the organ and its neural activity.
The next day Sarah, Todd, Kaito and Tetsuo sat in the observation room again. The crash team was already in the room waiting. Everyone was on edge, but ready to activate the field again. Todd had his tablet sitting in front of him with a live readout from the power grid and energy generated from the singularity. Sarah’s tablet was showing the field strength and power being fed into the generator. Kaito had several graphs and charts running across his screen as well, and Tetsuo watched them all patiently.
“Okay Sarah, bring the field strength up to five percent and leave it there,” Todd said without taking his eyes off his tablet. Sarah activated the generator and then looked up to see that the pale blue bubble could just be seen within the room.
“She’s holding at five percent,” she said after a moment. They waited and it was a minute or two before anyone spoke.
“Well there is no change at all on the power readings,” Todd commented.
“I have no changes on vitals, either,” Kaito added.
“Let’s take it up to ten percent then,” Todd indicated to Sarah.
She keyed in the new setting and waited for the field to respond. “Ten percent and holding,” she said to the room.
They only had to wait for a moment this time. “I’m seeing a slight drop in power from the singularity,” Todd said, then looked at Kaito. “Are you getting anything on your end?”
“No, there’s no change at all,” replied Kaito.
“Good, let’s take it up to twenty percent now,” Todd tried to contain his excitement. Sarah increased the field strength to twenty percent and they all waited again. “I’m seeing a drop in power again. It’s getting harder for her to draw power, but she’s still getting it.”
“Her heart rate has increased slightly, but it’s still fine,” reported Kaito.
They continued to increase the field strength step by step until it was at seventy percent. That was when all hell broke loose. An alarm sounded in the room and on Kaito’s tablet at the same time. Everyone in the room almost jumped out of their skin and looked at each other. Kaito started hitting buttons on his tablet and checking other readings.
“She is about to wake up. What will happen if she creates a portal with the field generator up?” he asked looking at Todd and Sarah.
“She’ll either overload the generator, or completely deplete the stored energy within the organ,” Todd answered. “At least that’s what I hope will happen.” He looked at Tetsuo and asked, “Do you want to abort?”
He only paused for a brief second before answering, “No, continue.” The alarms continued to sound as the crash team evacuated the room. As soon as they were clear, the force field was activated. A small black oval appeared in the middle of the room. This one was not on the ceiling or any other surface at all. It formed in mid air and started to grow. The force field reconfigured itself to surround the portal as it formed. Once it reached about one meter at the widest point the black part cleared and a pagoda could be seen a short distance away through it. People could be seen walking by and tourists were taking pictures. Just as one of the people in the square notice the portal and started to walk towards it, it flashed and disappeared.
Todd sounded excited as he said, “That was only six seconds, and the power spike was nowhere near as high as before.”
“The size of the organ has decreased by twelve percent, and it’s not growing.” Kaito looked at Todd and Sarah for the first time.
Todd looked at Sarah and said quickly, “Bring the field up to eighty percent, Sarah.” She immediately turned back to her tablet and keyed in the new setting and waited. “Power readings on the singularity and the city grid are almost the same. Take it up to ninety.” Sarah keyed in the setting again and turned to look at Todd. “I can’t read a difference from here anymore. How’s she looking, Doc?”
Kaito checked several pages of graphs and charts before saying, “All vitals signs are normal.”
“Okay Sarah, we might as well bring it up to full power,” Todd turned to look at Sarah and her tablet. Since she had already keyed in the setting, she just hit the accept button and waited a second before turning back to the rest of them and nodding with a smile. “Now we wait,” he said to no one in particular.
Todd woke up with a splitting headache. He knew he had been drinking too much the night before, but they were celebrating their first victory after a weeks worth of work. Sake hangovers are something to be avoided at all cost, if possible. Sarah had been drinking as well, but she was smart enough too stick with beer, saying something about being allergic to rice. Todd knew better, but didn’t let her secret out. He was seriously thinking of using that excuse in the future.
He pulled himself to a sitting position in bed and immediately regretted it. The world spun and he lost focus for a moment before it settled down again. A few deep breaths and he launched himself to the washroom just in time to dry heave into the toilet. It was a debate on a shower first or brushing his teeth, but the bad taste in his mouth tipped the balance. After he was dressed and had something for the headache he headed to the medical center and his office. There was still a lot of work to be done, but he had learned long ago that it helps to celebrate the victories as they come.
As he opened the door he saw Sarah sitting at the desk with a smile on her face. “Good morning, sleepy head,” she said with a grin. “How’s your head today?”
“Please, not so loud!” Todd held his head. “I don’t think the pills have kicked in yet. You look like you’re in a good mood.” It wasn’t the first time that Todd wondered how such a small woman could drink so much and not feel it the next day. She may have been drinking beer, but she had been keeping pace with Tetsuo, Kaito and himself all night long.
“Well here’s a bit of good news for you,” she said, handing him a tablet with a report on it. “Looks like the wee girl woke up early this morning. She was up for over an hour before falling asleep again.”
Todd looked at the report from the people monitoring Alice. Along with all the medical details it indicated that she had woken up some time around four and had even asked for something to drink before falling asleep again. “Does Tetsuo know about this?” he asked her.
“Aye, he’s in the observation room now,” she told him. “I heard that he was in with her for a while before she fell asleep. I think he’s waiting for her to wake up again.”
“Well, I don’t want to disturb him right now. I want to get started on the next step. Then I’ll see about going in and seeing how things are.”
“What do you mean? I thought that we just needed to control her ability to generate the portals?” Sarah asked a little confused.
“That’s true,” explained Todd. “But I have this feeling that she may find another energy source now that we’ve cut off the one she’s been using.”
“I dinnae know what else could provide that amount of power,” Sarah said a bit skeptically.
“Still, I don’t feel comfortable only stopping access to the power. I also want to be able to stop her from generating them if she finds some other source of energy.”
Todd and Sarah started discussing the information that he had found on portals and his theories on how they functioned. They had an incredible amount of data on the portals that Alice had created over the past week as well as some information from Tetsuo’s portals. The two types of portals had a slight difference, but were effectively created the same way. If more people who had this ability were available to be studied, it might be possible to determine if these differences could be used as a signature for the portal creator, or if this was something completely different.
By the time they were ready to break for lunch the two of them had a good idea on the direction they would go to control, or at least contain, the creation of the portals. With the data that they had gathered, it looked like it would be possible to disrupt the N dimensional pattern that was being created which allowed the portal to fold space. Todd also thought that a short break for lunch would be a good idea before he got too deep into the design of the equipment.
As they walked out of the room, they headed towards the observation room to check in on Alice. Entering the small room, they saw Tetsuo sitting at the end of the bed in the girl’s room talking to her. She was propped up by pillows in her bed hugging a large stuffed bear. A string of origami cranes had been created and now decorated the walls of the room. A small plate of food was pushed to the side of the tray near her bed. Most of it hadn’t been touched. It looked as though she had been crying for some time and that Tetsuo had been trying to comfort her.
Neither Sarah nor Todd wanted to intrude on their conversation, so they nodded to Tetsuo and left the room again. Before the door completely closed behind them, Todd heard Alice ask Tetsuo in Japanese, “Who were they, Oji?”
Todd smiled as he and Sarah entered the elevator. He was still smiling as they sat in the small restaurant and ordered their meals. Sarah’s curiosity finally got to her and asking, “What are you smiling about?”
“As we were leaving the observation room, I heard Alice call Tetsuo, Uncle,” he explained. “No wonder he’s been so involved in all of this.”
Sarah looked at Todd with a puzzled expression and asked, “I thought that he was an only child?”
“I don’t know, but that’s what I heard,” he stated. After eating they returned to the office to get back to work. They were both surprised to see Tetsuo sitting in one of the chairs as they opened the door to the office.
He stood as they came in and bowed slightly before saying, “Todd, may I have a moment of your time?”
Sarah turned to Todd, saying, “I need to get a report. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” She stepped out of the office again while Todd walked over to the desk.
“How can I help you?” he asked Tetsuo as they both sat at the desk.
“I need to know when we will be able to move Alice,” he said. However the tone of his voice was odd. There was something more important that he wanted to know, but didn’t want to ask it first.
“Unfortunately the field generator is still connected to the main power grid and not very portable,” Todd explained. “We won’t be able to move her until we can get a portable generator. I’ve already given the plans and specifications to your tech people. I didn’t get a reply from them before I went for lunch, but let me check.” Todd pulled out his tablet and checked his messages.
“They should have replied by now,” Tetsuo stated. “I have made myself quite clear on their priorities regarding this project.”
There was a reply from the technical team Tetsuo had allocated to the project and Todd read it before commenting. “They indicate that the generator can be made into a portable unit within two days, but the power requirements are too high for any power source they have available.”
“I will look into another source of power for it, but that generator needs to be operational.” The statement made Todd a little uncomfortable, and he wasn’t willing to wait anymore for some answers.
“Why? That’s the second time you’ve stated that time is an issue,” he was making sure that Tetsuo knew he wanted answers. “What is going on that has you so concerned about the time?”
Tetsuo didn’t answer for a moment. It seemed like he was debating whether to answer Todd’s question or not. He sighed before he asked, “Do you understand the orbital path that the city takes around the Earth?”
“I thought that is was a standard geostationary orbit,” Todd answered. A geostationary orbit was more of a location in space then a type of orbit. The distance above the Earth was such that it would take a satellite, or the city, exactly twenty-four hours to complete. As far as a person on the Earth, or in the city, was concerned it would appear to remain over one spot on the Earth. It would never move from that point in the sky.
“Not quite,” Tetsuo explained. “The altitude to maintain a geostationary orbit is a bit crowded. There are a large number of communication satellites that require that orbit. The size of the city, and its gravity would pull them out of orbit over time. Instead the city is a little higher, by about another two thousand kilometers.”
“But I thought the city is always over the same point on the earth. How do you maintain a geostationary orbit without being at the right altitude?” he asked. The physics of orbiting objects had been known since Newton invented calculus. There was no way of maintaining a stationary orbit without being in the Clarke Belt. Even when a satellite was in the Clarke Belt, it still needed to use energy to maintain its position over the life of the satellite.
The city would need to make massive station keeping maneuvers to maintain its position. Then it hit Todd what he was talking about. He looked at Tetsuo with concern. “You make corrections, don’t you?” he asked.
Tetsuo simply nodded before answering, “Yes, we normally make small jumps back to the correct location to maintain GEO. We would usually make a correction once every three to four days. If I’m not available to do this, we can make an orbital correction using thrusters. But as you can guess, moving something as large as this city takes a lot of energy.”
“And having a constant drain on your energy source would have been an issue as well,” Todd added.
“We thought it best not to make the corrections with the thrusters, as we had no way of knowing its affect on Alice,” Tetsuo explained.
“And you can’t open a portal until Alice is able to control hers,” Todd continued.
“It’s unlikely she’s able to destabilize my portal, but I’m not willing to take that chance,” Tetsuo admitted.
It was all starting to make sense now. Since no orbital correction could have been made until after Alice finished stage two of MORFS, the city must be well off of its orbit by now. “How far out of orbit is the city now?”
“Our altitude is close to 50,000km now, and since we haven’t slowed down our orbital speed, we’re moving out further each day,” he finally confessed.
“Are you able to start correcting the orbit now with the thrusters?” Todd asked.
“Yes, and we have. However the thrusters were never designed to move the city this distance. We’ll need to leave the thrusters on for a considerable time to slow the city to the new orbit speed needed. I’ll have to move the city when it’s safe to do so. Until then, Tenkei is not in the correct location in the sky and constantly moving.”
“Is there any danger from being in this new orbit?”
“No, but there is a financial impact,” Tetsuo explained. “The orbit is further away from the Earth. This means making and breaking the new orbit will have a higher energy cost for the shuttles from Earth. Some of them may not be able to operate at this altitude, and we are also affecting the orbit of other objects as we pass near them. The gravitational pull of the city is having a minor, but measurable impact on them. They have to make station keeping maneuvers more often that normal. It’s only a matter of time before they blame us for a premature failure of a satellite.”
Suddenly Todd’s and Sarah’s expenses and consulting fees seemed a mere drop in the bucket when compared to the cost of replacing an entire satellite, or several of them. As the city continued to move around the Earth so close to the Clarke Belt there could be several satellites that may need to be replaced or serviced because of them. He finally understood the urgency for a real solution.
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/