The Fruits of Our Labor
Chapter 12: The Fruits of Our Labor
The sitting chamber was on fire, aggravated with conversation. Tthe sitting chamber was in total disarray. I couldn't truly describe the influx of reactions I was witnessing from others. I was too busy with myself, just trying to convince myself that whatever I had just witnessed was real. I broke free my mind from the chaotic expanse and realized my heart was racing. Every hair on my body was raised. I took a deep breath…yes. Struger disappeared. He vanished. He was gone.
The Doctor said this would be normal.
I looked into the room he stood in on the other side. He exuded no particular reaction to what just happened. Apparently, it was normal. Struger's disappearance was what Doctor Kleiner had intended. I took a harder look at the man. He simply stood there and observed the chaos through the window like curious onlookers would at a group of caged animals.
I made a quick assessment of those inside the room: I stood up, fighting for a good vantage point to see who was here. People were standing, ranting and raving and speaking nonsense. I knew Lima Company was better than that. Our discipline had got us this far, though this whole situation was nonsensical. What we just witnessed defied all logic, all laws of our universe. How could someone just disappear? I knew the UNSC to have active camouflage systems in its employ, but nothing that advanced, nothing that could achieve complete invisibility. I felt I couldn't wait for the Doctor to provide explanation.
Once I was able to stand tall enough, I saw that everyone—minus Private Jon Struger—was still here and intact. It was then that I noticed the air was colder than before, my body shaking and surging with adrenaline. I brought my hands to bear, seeing that my extremities became moist with sweat. Struger instantly materialized back into the room next to Doctor Kleiner. All of Lima Company was in uproar again, the sudden spike in noise hurting my eardrums.
Shock was the subject of the room with no order to be had in our confusion. Lima Company Marines were too busy talking to one another, just talking crazy. God came up a few times. I didn't bother to speak. It was of no use; the discussions made no sense. And I didn't feel like raising my voice just to try and calm them down if only for the Doctor's courtesy. I waited for what seemed like half a standard hour for everyone to quiet down. I looked next to me at Holmes, who was just as shocked as I, and gave him a nudge of the elbow. "Holmes, what the Hell do you think?"
"I don't know, man. I literally don't even know what to say right now—"
"I do." Haze said from a row further up behind us. "It's teleportation. They found out how to teleport with that black ball."
"It could be just a sham." Holmes said cautiously. "...that stand in the middle could be a sophisticated holographic manipulator. Some kind of new weapon system based on deception."
"Now why would they drag us all the way down here for that?" Haze countered. "After all we've been through. I'm telling you...it is teleportation. That's why this place is so secretive. That's why an oh-six is running the show. That's why we always got the run-around."
"And that's why it was worth two million lives and a planet." Lawrence added.
"I suppose you're right." I said, nodding my head stiffly. "I guess we'll wait to see what the good Doctor has to say."
"Yeah, if everyone would only get a hold of themselves." Holmes added.
So with that, I looked past the plexi-plate window again—into the room on the other side. I looked at Klenier. He stood there with a certain look, a certain aura about him—casual or all-knowing. A sly smirk and a careless posture, he waited patiently for the Marines to quiet down. Struger next to him was in awe, speechless, pawing at his clothing and checking himself for any 'defects'. And to my utmost surprise, he had none. The Doctor successfully teleported him to somewhere outside the room and then back again.
Amidst the magic show, something else tugged at my mind again. Just like before…
It would have to wait. I was certain she was safe somewhere in the mines.
One by one the Marines took their seats again and quieted down, but the air was still the same. The chamber was still abuzz. Everyone was on the edge of their seats, the entire room electrified with anticipation.
About half a minute went by with Doctor Kleiner's gaze frozen to the ground as if for dramatic effect.
"I think the good Doctor gets a kick out of seeing us like this." Haze said to me.
Doctor Eli Kleiner somehow sensed the teeming stillness of the sitting chamber, and in perfect silence he took one step towards the stand in the middle of the room, Struger backpedaling in accordance, wide-eyed and shaken. Rather than putting the black ball inside the stand where it supposedly resided at all times, Doctor Kleiner instead placed it atop—resting it for all to see. It pulsated with pure darkness, splotches of black brimming and churning with nothingness. It was the strangest thing ever to look at, but so pleasing as well. Like man's primordial attraction to fire, it had an alluring, deadly beauty. It begged to be held and used. He held out an outstretched palm towards it.
"This," the Doctor said executively, "is the Singular-Point Field Effect Manipulator."
His posture touted straighter until the Captain uttered over the loudspeaker from some remote location, "Just call it the Transit. That's what I do."
"My God," the Gunny said, "how does it work?"
"We don't actually observe the underpinnings by which it is able to calculate resonance gaps between the smallest forms of matter-antimatter interactions, but that is our theory." Kleiner replied. He turned towards the plexi-plate to face us. "It's a mystery we haven't completely solved...yet. But we can thank the brilliant team of quantum cryptographers along with our A.I. for discovering how to create an interface for it. Because of them, it is operable. You see, teleportation has always been possible mathematically, but we haven't evolved enough to possess the kind of innovation it takes to produce something like this, much less fully understand it. Thank whatever it is you believe in that we stumbled upon it. And once we did, rapid-fire successes occurred. Once we proved feasibility of its operation in a controlled environment, we brought it straight to developmental test and evaluation in a real-world setting. We've conducted several relocation trials already. First it was individual atoms, then tea cups laying around the office. Once we felt comfortable with it, we moved on to bigger objects like computer terminals, and now people."
"So we were your final test subjects." The Gunny said. "Cool."
Even despite the Gunny's typical humor I could see that something didn't sit quite well with him. I noticed it instantly after he swallowed a hard lump in his throat, then checked his shaking hands an instant later. I had never seen him so stirred. But his nervousness was warranted. I was a little nervous too. The strategic implications in the mere discovery of this device were huge, literally galactic. If the Covenant ever got their hands on this, they could win the War in the cosmic blink of an eye. We had to deny them this thing at all costs.
It was now a weapon system.
I hated to think that the countless deaths of Zagosa citizens—soldier and civilian—was justified. But that's the way it was panning out.
I peered through the plexi-plate and took in its mass—so tiny—able to fit in the palm of my hand. So many dead over so small a thing. The entire world above was likely smoldering cinder because of it.
"This is simply amazing." Gunny Smith said, staring ahead. "The most amazing thing ever. This is what you were hiding all along."
"Yes." the Doctor replied.
The jet-black orb just sat there, motionless. Though its shape had a definite solidity, it appeared as though the perfectly round sphere swam into itself, churning, a void that pulled in Lima's collective gaze.
"I wondered for the longest time," the Gunny said, fixated on it, "why they sent us here to this dilapidated, old mining facility. I thought the Covenant was on a wild goose chase or they were just trying their hand at random genocide again. But I can't believe you're actually teleporting things!"
"Yes," the Doctor said, "ever since the Covenant arrived, we acted under the assumption that there would be no more UNSC at Zaragosa Prime. In fact, our orders specified the continuity of operations long after it was glassed. Just another disaster scenario on the books for us. And now look...It's a reality. It's as the Old Russian proverb says, isn't it? 'Plan for the worst, hope for the best.'"
"In-fucking-deed." Smith said, retaking his seat.
Haze stood up, looking the Doctor squarely in the eyes. "What are you going to do with this?"
"Use it against the Covenant."
"So then, we're leaving." the Gunny said resolutely.
"Soon..." Kleiner corrected. "First, we need to fuel it."
"Fuel it?" the Gunny asked, his head cocked to one side.
"Yes. As versatile as the device is, it requires tremendous energy to teleport objects. We've saturated it many times with all the microwave energy we could muster, but it drew so much current that our prime power plant wasn't enough to sustain it. We were forced to tap into our geothermal reserves to continue testing. It inadvertently forced a shutdown of the admin wings in the facility."
"Wait...as we moved towards Omega Wing, the lights cut out. We had assumed it was the Covenant in the vents. We thought they hit the mains or something."
It was in fact the scientists, trying to infuse energy into the power-hungry Transit. Everything made sense now.
"No, I'm afraid it was our doing." the Doctor admitted. "A necessary risk we took."
A look of clarity flashed in the Gunny's eyes. "Obviously."
"I can do two more volunteers." Kleiner announced with a grin uncharacteristic of him.
The Captain cut in remotely over the loudspeakers, "Two more and then we have to make ready to leave, Doctor. We're barely on-schedule."
"Very well, Captain. Now…who would like to try it out?"
Haze stood up, eager to experience the impossible truth of teleportation. "What if you're wrong one time and you teleport half my body into the ground? What then?"
"It was intelligently designed in consideration to the operator's bidding." Kleiner rebutted. "It has never failed. Every test session has yielded precise, consistent results. It will never transpose foreign molecules with that of your own inert form. There was an intuitiveness in mind with the original design of this device as if it can surmise your wishes. In layman's terms, all the guess work is taken out."
"Hmmm." Haze thought it over as he stepped to the pressure door—about twenty meters our left. The pneumatic blast from above systematically cleansed him of debris. "Why do you like to keep it so clean in there?" Haze asked, needing more reassurance.
"We still haven't determined the extent of ambient scattering created by field displacement. Micro-interaction of 'life-sized' particles in the plane of transfer still has the possibility to affect our mass-displacement characteristics."
"How about that in Layman's terms, Doctor?"
"It means we're not taking any chances until we're forced to."
"Well, that's good to know."
Haze took an explosive breath and stepped into the room. The door slid closed behind him momentarily. A few footsteps and he was back into view through the plexi-plate. He took his place next to Struger and situated himself on the other side of the pedestal from the Doctor, who once again picked up the Transit and started to caress its shape, Lima Company ready for something amazing again. He poked at it and danced his fingers atop. We waited again for a friend to vanish and return.
"Just one volunteer?" the Doctor asked. "No one else? Then I guess Jon gets to go again. How about it, Jon. You ready?"
He nodded his head, taking a deep breath.
Kleiner jabbed the sphere once with an index finger.
They both appeared on the other side of the plexi-plate, instantly facing the front row of Marine spectators. A few of the men jolted in surprise and a few even reared backwards in their seats. There was a murmur in the crowd much like before.
"Two transfers at the same time." Holmes noted aloud, nodding his head thoughtfully.
"This thing could really make a difference in battle." The Gunny replied aloud.
Marines left their seats and went up to Struger and Haze, patting their hands on their uniforms to see if anything had changed about them, asking them what it felt like. After a few minutes of this, something caught our attention. Something far away. Something we were all trained for. Silence once again had a hold of us. We listened again.
A subtle vibration, soft like thunder. A distant booming, concussive as wardrums. Eerie calm before a storm.
"Doctor! Get the Marines out of there right now! Commence the final phase of Project Gateway!"
The booming stopped and the gentle tremor ceased to exist.
"What's going on?" the Gunny asked, wide-eyed. "Have the Covenant broken inside?"
"See for yourself." Doctor Kleiner said, holding his tablet high above his head.
It displayed real-time footage of security cameras high above—the Omega Wing lobby—where we once subsisted in perfect safety. The North wall that adjoined a break room I had once visited was completely demolished. Through smoke and chunky debris, hordes of Covenant creatures were pouring through. Blurs of purple and green and deep blue pushed through the rubble, traversing the beautiful obsidian. Their footsteps tarnished the Wing. And following close behind the initial assault wave was the disconcerting sight of multi-faceted blurs scurrying towards turbolifts. Special operations Elite commandos were pure motivation—skilled, cunning and relentless. Escape them or die fighting them—the only choices ever afforded a Marine.
I was fixated on the impossible displayed in Doctor Kleiner's tablet. Night sky cleaved its presence through the breach in the wall and unveiled splotches of oval-shaped light in the clouds. Covenant cruisers—hundreds of them. And beyond the mammoth gash in the once-permanent bulwark was a giant, mechanized creature crawling over endless fields of glass. A large aperture of some sort was mounted abows. It glowed a bright-green, surely responsible for the destruction.
The Doctor ran back into the static-free room and retrieved the Transit, and ran out faster. "That was a scarab. We've received Intel reports of them before. They are always bad news. We must leave now.
"Where's Amy?" I asked.
Kleiner opened the outer door. He turned, found my eyes amidst Lima Company. "She's already waiting for us at the Lambda Complex. We have to move!"
He pushed past and ran for the corridor. We followed.