Three Months Later
The laboratory had been fitted out with everything Alan had asked for, and more. He’d spent two months designing everything, down to the smallest detail. Now, while a team of technicians built and installed the equipment to his exacting standard, Alan could see the laboratory was a reality, not just a series of drawings that he’d had many sleepless nights over. Everything was in place and ready for the first test.
A computer station took pride of place in the centre of the room. Along the back wall a metal cylinder with a panel in the centre ran the whole length of the double space. Benches overflowed with papers and metal racks were filled with all manner of equipment.
Alan was pacing the room checking figures on a computer printout and muttering to himself. His white lab coat covered brown corduroy trousers, a T-shirt emblazoned with italic formulae. His hair was wild and unkempt, not unlike the poster of Einstein that covered the glass panel in the room door.
He put the printout on a bench at the side of the machine, peered into the open hatchway, then his head and shoulders disappeared inside. As he pulled back out he banged his head on a hinge. Rubbing his head and mumbling profanities to himself he shut and bolted the panel that covered the opening.
Sitting down at the computer he tapped away at the keys. A loud thrumming noise grew in volume. The room lit up with a vivid blue light. Alan tapped a few keys. The light in the room intensified. A pair of meters at the side of the monitor lit up, the needles bouncing crazily from side to side.
Alan got up and put on a pair of thick goggles. He peered through a porthole window in the centre of the tunnel. Turning to look at the monitors he saw that the needles on the meters had hit the stops at the end of their range and remained there. A loud electrical crackling sound and the smell of ozone filled the room.
Inside the chamber a small swirling circle of bright white light, about the size of a penny, had appeared on a disc at the exact point that the laser beams collided. A big grin lit up Alan’s face.
Harnessing the energy won’t be a problem, he thought. If I reduce the magnetic field and insert the probes into the chamber I should be able to draw off the energy produced.
His face filled with excitement as he powered down the machine. He pushed the goggles up into his crazy hair and sat down at the computer to check the figures on the monitor.
‘You were right Albert,’ he said, casting a glance at the poster.’
A tapping on the door interrupted his train of thought.
‘Go away. I’m busy. Can’t you see the sign.’
The tapping became more persistent. Annoyed at this untimely intrusion he pushed his chair back and walked to the door. He pulled it open and was just about to curse at the unwanted visitor when he saw Kathy’s smiling face beaming at him.
‘Oh it’s you. Sorry. I thought it was those bloody tech guys again. They keep moaning about the strain I’m putting on the power grid.’
Alan opened the door wide allowing Kathy to enter.
‘I’ll have a word with them not to disturb you again, maybe bring in a dedicated line for your lab. Is there anything else you need?’
Alan shut and locked the door, then went back to the computer and sat down. ‘No. I have everything.’
Kathy pulled a chair over and sat next to him.
‘Susan said you’ll soon be ready for the first test.’
‘I’ve just finished it,’ he beamed.’
‘How did it go?’
‘Much better than I expected. The energy produced was massive compared to the input. I should be able to draw off the energy easily enough.’
’Kathy leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
‘Are you still coming tonight?’ he asked.
‘It will have to be later. I have a meeting with the director. He’s flying in this evening but I should be able to get away about eleven.’
Alan turned back to the computer.
‘I think Susan suspects something is going on between us, she’s a good friend and I know she’ll keep it to herself. We have to keep it secret for now. If the board found out I could lose my job. Once you perfect your energy machine it won’t matter, you’ll be too important to them and we can drop all this secrecy.’
‘That might be very soon. I’ll show you how far I’ve got with the first phase, it’ll give you something to tell your boss tonight.’
The room filled with a loud hum. The air became heavy with the smell of ozone and the room lit up with a bright blue light.
‘What’s happening Alan?’
He got up and walked over to the hatch.
‘Come over here.’
He handed her a pair of dark goggles and pulled his down to cover his eyes.
‘Look at the disk. Can you see that tiny vortex where the lasers collide?’
‘Yes, it’s beautiful. What is it?’
‘It’s complicated. It would take too long to explain.’
Alan walked over to the computer. He tapped a few keys, increasing the lasers power. A loud crackling sound rose from the tunnel.
Kathy shouted above the noise. ‘Alan, the vortex has grown.’
‘Keep watching it,’ he shouted. He further increased the amplifiers. The sound created was deafening.
Kathy shouted, trying to be heard above the loud thrumming noise. ‘The vortex is growing bigger than the disc.’
Alan turned and pulled down two levers on a wall panel.
A high-pitched whine and the crackling of electrical discharges filled the room. ‘It’s powering itself now,’ he shouted. ‘The energy it’s producing is powering the lasers and the magnetic and gravitational fields. We could draw off the excess energy being produced to power this whole bloody building.’
As Alan turned to pull the switches a thunderous crack filled the air, deafening them both. Forks of bright blue lightning streaked from the machine, grounding out on the electrical panels. Showers of sparks and molten metal flew across the room like a firework display.
Kathy’s screams went unheard over explosions of electric panels and fluorescent light tubes. Alan wrenched the two levers down. Immediately the lightning disappeared. The emergency lighting came on, bathing the room in a red glow. Their ears were ringing even though the room was now silent, except for the electrical crackling.
A loud banging on the door drew their attention. Alan walked quickly to the door and unlocked it. The corridor beyond was filled with technicians and white lab coats.
‘What the bloody hells going on?’ cursed a technician.
’Sorry. ‘Unexpected power surge. It’s blown all the breakers.’
‘We know it has. Every fucking lab has lost power.’
Kathy appeared at the door. ‘Then I suggest you get on with repairing them, instead of swearing at Mr. Clarke.’
Sorry Miss Henderson, I didn’t realise you were...’
‘Mr Clarke was giving me a demonstration when everything blew.’
She heard a few sniggers from the crowd in the hall. This riled her.
‘Shouldn’t you all be getting back to your labs? I’m sure there are things you need to deal with until the power is back on.’
They all shuffled away, mumbling to each other.
‘Not you.’ Kathy addressed the Technician who had sworn at Alan. ‘I want a dedicated power line for this lab, so that this doesn’t happen again. Make it your number one priority, and I want a full team to have this lab up and running by tomorrow.’
‘Yes Miss Henderson. I’ll get right on it.’ The technician quickly walked off down the corridor.
‘I’ll leave the door open,’ Alan said. ’Let the smoke clear until the extractors come on.
‘I told you they knew.’
‘It’s hard to keep a secret in a place like this, what with everybody living in each other’s pockets.’
‘Well fuck them. I’ll speak to Susan. She’ll make them keep their mouths shut.’
Alan grinned foolishly. ‘I love it when you talk dirty.’
‘Be serious Alan. I could lose my job if the board found out about us. You know management are not allowed to fraternize with the research staff.’
Alan shrugged. ‘Sorry.’
‘Forget it. What the hell was that? Did you see the lightning?’
‘I shouldn’t have given it so much power without first drawing off some of what it was producing. I won’t make that mistake again.’
They both laughed.
‘I’ll get this cleaned up. Once the tech boys have finished I’ll run the numbers, see what we got.’
Kathy looked up at the wall clock. ‘It’s getting late. I better go if I’m going to make the meeting at nine.’ She headed for the door. ‘I’ll see you tonight.’
‘Wait. There’s something in here.’
On the floor of the cylinder was a blob of bluish green jelly, about the size of a doughnut.
Kathy joined him at the hatch. ‘What is it?’
‘I don’t know. Pass me a container off the shelf and something to scrape it in with, and one of those plastic bags.’
Kathy got a beaker and a wooden spatula and handed it to him.
Scraping the jelly into the beaker he held it up to the red emergency light. The substance glowed with pinpoints of light, like twinkling stars.
‘It must have come through the vortex when the lightning appeared. Hold it for me while I put the spatula in a bag. We need to get the lab boys to analyse it.’
As he handed her the beaker, Kathy’s hand came into contact with the jelly clinging to the rim. A bright blue light flashed up her arm.
Kathy screamed in agony. ‘Alan! Help me.’
Alan dropped the bag. He spun around to see Kathy’s arm and neck glowing with an intense blue light. Grabbing the beaker off of her, his hand came into contact with the substance. He screamed as the blue light flowed across his hand and spread up his arm and encased his body. The beaker dropped to the floor, as Kathy, her body shaking and pulsing with a blue glow, collapsed in a heap. The jelly flowed out of the beaker and Alan collapsed on top of it.
Their prone bodies began to pulse with light, their flesh and bones dissolving under the blue glow.
All that remained were two piles of clothes that sank to the floor as though their very substance had been sucked from them. Viscous fluids seeped out from under a now empty growing mound, moving with rhythmic pulses.