Another century of British rule
He drank for medicinal reasons. Proclaiming that dangerously high levels of blood in his alcohol stream; could lead to bouts of lucidity, a fearful condition. I couldn’t fault his reasoning; prescribing to the same course of medication. Thus we saw in the new millennium.
My drinking buddy and me eventually sobered up enough to finish our degrees. He got a job with a big financial consortium, and I took a position at the patient office. This was how I got in at the ground floor as it were of the greatest discovery of our time.
I had been working in the Clapham office for a year, and had settled into the job nicely. Mr Faversham could be relied upon to provide tea at the drop of a hat, and Ted Rothby would dish out the cigarettes in an endless chain if I let him. The only downside was the occasional crackpot inventor; who would tarnish the government-sponsored holiday I was living.
It was on a Tuesday I recall. The whole week stretched before me, and a light drizzle smeared the windows. I had just finished my eleven o’clock tea break, and was busy doing the crossword. “Excuse me sir, is this were you come to register inventions?” The shaky voice came from behind my newssheet. I folded it down and removed my feet from the desk. “No sir, this is the patient office, we register patients.” The sight that greeted me was of an elderly gent in a thick coat and bowler hat. An unusual item of apparel in this day and age, but I persevered.
“Do you have a patient you wish to register?” I suggested. He smiled weakly and placed a case on the desk. “I have here the prototype of my probability matrix field generator.” My stare of incredulity prompted him to explain further. “It has been postulated that for every decision made all; the alternative decisions are played out in an ever expanding number of alternative realities. In our experience of the world the probability is certain and is therefore one hundred per cent likely to happen, because it already has. But my device creates a level of uncertainty within a limited field of influence, and thus brings into being a portion of the less probable reality in to ours.”
Still not impressed I explained to him,” All very well sir, but do you have any plans? I can’t do a thing without those.” He looked a bit taken aback at this turn of events. “Is there anything I can do to start the ball rolling as it were?” I reached under the desk for a DZ27 and placed it before him. “This is a DZ27, fill it in and come back in a week.” He scanned through it then scribbled down his name, address and a brief description of the patient. I signed and dated it; and with a received stamp in red across it then I filed it under my teacup.
“Good day sir” I finished as I returned to number three down, a six-letter word meaning an organised massacre. When I felt I had filled in enough for the morning, I laid the paper down and noticed the old man’s case still on the desk. Leaning over to make sure he’d not collapsed on the other side, I was relieved to find the floor bare, but now I would have to find an IP56 items left form. “Chiver it” I cursed to myself. So I slid the offending object behind a stack of sheets on the shelf behind me. “He’ll not be long, probably on his way back now”, but when home time came the case still sat untouched. I had to admit trouble could be brewing. So I moved it to behind a stack of forms in the storeroom, and then I went home.
A few weeks past, and I had quite forgotten the incident. I was locking up for the night. It was a fair system as the three of us took weekly turns to lock up. As I fumbled with the key; having been left by my co-workers. They too were keen to grab a drink on the way home. I heard a scraping walk, and wondering who might be approaching, I turned.
“Jerry” I cried out with genuine affection. There stood my old drinking buddy, definitely the worst for booze, but grinning like a Cheshire cat. “What fine luck. I’ve been celebrating a good deal I made today, and here you come along to help me toast my brilliance.” I could never turn down such an invitation, and so closing time at the closest bar; saw us reel through the door of the Blind ferret and into the night.
We staggered down the street, and then it always happens. The full bladder that paid you no heed in the pub; suddenly screams out to be emptied. Unfortunately there were no alleyways round here, and then it hit me. I still had the office keys, so using each other for support we crab walked our unsteady way back to my place of work. After the third attempt the lock was defeated and we fell inside. I was up in a trice and soon had the latch on in case some snoop caught my night-time micturition. I headed for the toilet, and was soon relieved to be considerable lighter. It was only then that I realised I had forgotten where Jerry had got to, but with a crash he proclaimed his presence in a cupboard.
By the time I had reeled my way across to him, I found the prostrate figure of Jerry on top of a pile of papers. He had a damp patch spreading from his groin, while he emitted a steady hissing noise. Turning away in disgust, I noticed a case lying open next to him. The top half was normal enough just an empty half shell, but the bottom was filled with a panel across the space. Inset in the surface was a golden speaker. Above that was a set of those combination lock dials, the ones you twirl up or down to get the correct digit. There must have been about thirty of them.
I don’t know what made me do it, but I reached out and turned the last one; so it didn’t read zero like the rest. Immediately I started to choke, and falling back in shock I fell out of the cupboard. It was then that I noticed protruding through the wall there was a sort of bubble. From where it was it had to be sat on top of the case. It cut neatly through the wall and ceiling as if someone had carved out a sphere. Inside the ball a green gas swirled, but remained trapped.
Jerry stirred at the noise of my choking, as I gasped through the sweet air out side of that globe. He raised his head and inadvertently put his own head into the sphere. Jerry immediately turned blue, and diving underneath this strange phenomenon I pulled him free. Finally we both lay sucking in the fresh air until when I had finally recovered; I turned over to have another look. The missing wall and ceiling hadn’t disturbed anything. In fact I could see half a chair suspended in the room above. I crawled over to the case and returned the dial back to zero, and was pleasantly surprised by the reappearance of the missing piece of office. As I looked again at the case I noticed to the left of the dials; there was an old digital single digit display now showing a one. Also between the second and third dials was an obvious decimal point. Shutting up the case I took it over to Jerry and checked he was all right. He had sobered up enough to assure me he was, so re-hiding the case and pulling the cupboard door shut, we made our escape to sleep off the nights events.
The next day was a Saturday and I spent it under the covers, reaffirming my vows to never drink again. I knew I would go astray all too soon, but for now it passed the time until I crawled groggily from my sick bed. Then I started to really ponder what had happened in the office. By Monday I had made a plan of action, I tidied the cupboard. Then I re hid the case where no one could chance upon it by mistake.
I met up with Jerry for lunch, and over a big mac and fries explained my master plan. “So you’re saying it’s a parallel dimension gate, isn’t that dangerous?” I took a bite and then regretted my action, having to gulp it down. “No I think it just created the other reality in a confined area. So although we went in and out of that sphere, that’s all there was.” He frowned and went on, “so what use is it unless you want to gas someone?” I explained. “When I turned the last digit, it was like dialling up a really low probability reality.” I explained the meaning of the read out of one and zero and the decimal point. “I called up a zero point thirty odd zeros and then a five per cent chance, of that reality coming into being, We’re at one hundred per cent now, in what I call our base reality. Now if I had dialled up say ninety eight per cent; we probably wouldn’t have seen much difference. But here my big idea.” He leaned in.
“I work in the patent office right, and can get access every third week to the place at night?” Jerry nodded. “So what if inventions not thought up in our reality; were done in others. We could copy them down and use them here.” I stabbed the table with a chip in punctuation, and Jerry finished my thought. “We’d be rich, on easy street”, we laughed conspiratorially. “Right you still got your key?” I nodded. “Good. Get a copy and we can go any night.” So with the scant few minutes remaining. I dropped in at the shoe repairer stand; and obtained a spare set on my way back to work.
That night we met in a local pub for just a pint or two, we wanted clear heads for the work. Then when the streets were clear I fumbled with my new key, while Jerry kept look out; and then we were in. I extracted the case and brought it over to my desk, then carefully set it down under my feet. “What’s the reason for that?” asked my friend. “If I turn it on down here my whole desk and”, I tapped my computer. “This will be from another reality.” I crouched down, so not to get my head inside the bubble at first. Jerry bravely stood on the other side of the room. I flicked the first two dials on the left from zero zero to nine nine. Nothing seemed to happen, but from across the room Jerry let out a “Bravo.” Gingerly getting up, I saw my blue bag was now yellow. Then slowly I submerged my head into where I assumed the sphere began; for this time there was little else different. I took a breath, good old air. I turned and did a thumbs up, and then Jerry joined me at the desk. “Now let’s start hunting.”
I entered my password, nothing happened. “Damn.” The alternative reality of me must have a different code. I wracked my brain and tried some old ones I’d used before. On the third attempt we were in. The screen slowly scrolled up as we perused through the various inventions, but after two hours I had to admit. “It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.” “Well why don’t we down load the data base, and then compare it with the normal one for any changes. I’ve got my laptop here with a data analysing program. My company uses it for share analysis, to see who’s good to buy.”
I sat dumfounded at the idiot who’d let me search for two hours, when he had this tool all along. “Why the blazes didn’t you say that before?” “I only just thought of it” Jerry mumbled; feeling reproached at the poor reception his plan had received. So linking the two computers together, we downloaded the alternative reality’s database. Then with the machine under my feet switched off, we did the same with our ordinary one. “This may take some time,” Jerry informed me, so we packed up for the night. Then I went home to dream about the riches we were in for.
The next day dawned. As I sat doing the cross word with feet up on the desk, my mobile began to ring. “I’ve got one”, came the exuberant tones of Jerry. So at lunchtime I sprang for the door, and was soon ensconced in a booth at the White Lion. I almost drooled over the sheet Jerry had just handed me. “I had to cross reference the descriptions for a hit list, and then when I had eliminated the pointless ones. I rechecked it against our reality’s list; to make sure a better invention didn’t exist to do the same job.”
I looked down and saw it. Our golden ticket to easy street, it wasn’t much. But it was a start. “A better way of protecting car doors against criminal activities. Well do we have to approach Ford or something?” “I think we should make an effort to trace that fellow who left the case. Or all this may blow up on us.” Jerry was right. I thought for a second, and had it. “The DZ27, his name and address were on it.”
Drinking up, I set off back to work. Where an afternoons search found the relevant paperwork behind a radiator. A moment of inspiration led me to recall I had filed it there, in a moment of distraction. So this night, instead of pulling a double shift at the office, Jerry and I met up in the Lamb and Flag. After a stiff drink to brace us for the night’s jaunt, we got a taxi to Henwick crescent, where we stood facing the dark facade. “Should we ring the bell or something?” I suggested.
Just then a man popped his head out of the window next door. “You looking for the old fellow at number thirteen?” I looked up and flashed my I.D. card, in the hope he would take it for a police warrant card. I spoke in a bold tone. “Yes I’m inspector Tom Moran, and this is sergeant Jerry Watts. We are making enquiries into Mr Venrockics whereabouts. Have you seen him recently?” He seemed satisfied at our appearance and called down. “No not for a few weeks, but then he did keep him self to him self.” I thanked him, and said we would need to gain entry. “That I can help you with. I have a back door key for his place from when I had to feed his cat, bless it’s soul. He’d been into hospital for a hernia you see.” And popping his head back in for a moment, he returned with the key which he threw down to us.
I thanked him and we proceeded round the back. “Why did you give him our real names?” hissed Jerry. “I can’t think of every thing. Anyway we got a key, and the old goat thinks were bona fide cops.” Then I turned the key in the lock and we were in. I jumped back with a start, as two green eyes stared back at me. Then Jerry strode passed the stuffed cat laughing. “Scared by a dead moggy, some inspector you’d make.”
We crept around the house looking in every room and cupboard we could find, but there seemed to be no sign of life. “Perhaps he’s gone on a holiday” Jerry mused. “Doesn’t strike me as the beach loving type, ah here’s something.” I had found a workshop in the cellar, and neatly stacked on a bench were a pile of papers. They were clearly marked as technical notes. “He kept it neat didn’t he” my friend observed, as he made his way round the well-equipped room. After a brief inspection, we had come to the conclusion that apart from the stack of notes on the table, there was little evidence of his final achievement. “We’d better take them for safe keeping.” “In case of fire.” “He may return and want them, so they’re better off with us and the case.” Finding a suitable hold all for the notes, we locked up and I deposited the bag under my own bed. Then I slept on the night’s revelations.
The next day we did find the professor, or at least Jerry did. “Have you read page sixteen yet?” Jerry asked from my mobile, and I turned to the relevant page. There at the bottom was an insignificant story. “Still no clues as to the identity of an elderly gentleman knocked down on East Finchley Street. The only piece of evidence was that he was wearing a size seven and three quarter bowler hat.” There was a reconstructed picture of his face, as the original was too badly damaged for identification. I could just make out the features. “Yes I think your right Jerry”, and we both breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Over the next few weeks we managed to get several more new patents. No biggies, but enough perhaps to make us a good living. “Better sit on them for a while” suggested Jerry, as we put another one away, after registering it in both our names.
It was on a Thursday afternoon, and I had decided to cut down on my cigarette intake. When the door opened, and a thin reedy man entered. “Mr Thomas Moran?” He reeked of officialdom, from his shinny pate to his shinny shoes. “Come come now my good man, no need to stand on attention. We’ve been keeping an eye on you for some time.” I fell off my chair and emerged from behind the desk, somewhat at a loss as what to say.
He continued approaching the desk, and lowering his voice so only I would be privy to his speech. “You’ve been doing a bit of over time haven’t you?” Seeing the shock on my face, he pressed his advantage. “You see you may not know it, but all government computers are equipped with a device to detect out of hours use. We can monitor any flagged machines, to find out what filthy practises they are being put to. Usually it’s porn, but on yours all we could see was static when you were on.” I sank back in to my chair and lit up. “I’d rather you didn’t” he coughed, and I stubbed it out. “So we took the liberty of installing a remote camera, on a weekend.” He pointed over my shoulder; I followed the rigid finger up to the wall and noticed the device.
Then with a sinking feeling; I brought my attention back to my nemesis. “So where is the case?” I froze, and then stammered. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He just pursed his lips and continued. “Very funny. Perhaps you are not looking at naughty images, but tampering with government devices so we just pick up static, holds a mandatory visit to the stripy hole, for a very long time. So if you and that friend of yours Jerry Watts, don’t want to be locked up with some slavering perverts, I suggest you start playing nice.”
So we sat in the Rose and Crown. The morose figures of Jerry and myself nursed our pints of stout, while this fiend in grey sat between us, as he sipped his pink gin. “Now gentlemen we are about to embark on a new age. We at the department of a Greater Britain are proud of the input you are willing to add, to the advancement of our great nation.” We both raised our glasses in mock salute as he continued. “You see the nineteenth century brought the birth of our global empire. Where the sun never set on the land protected by British invention, industry and arms. The twentieth saw the cultural node. When we drew in talent from the colonies now too expensive to keep, and then pumped it back out promoting the British way of thinking. And now in the twenty first century, your patents will revolutionise the world. Bringing Britain once more to the fore front of supremacy.” “Yay.” Jerry and I gave the monotone toast, and drowned our sorrows.
“Now you seem to be overdue a tax bill. I’ve taken the liberty of correcting the amount you owe, and you both seem to be in debt to the tune of several patents. This X27 allows me to collect payment in the form of assets owned, so if you just sign here and here. Your misspent nights will at last be of profit to the country.”
The next night the three of us assembled at the White Rose, and after our tormentor Mr Penrose had bought a round. We headed to the office. “Tonight gentlemen I would like you to dial up this probability.” I was a little stunned that he had a specific request. Our forays had been random, but always keeping above one per cent. So setting up the case below my desk, I input the numbers onto the dials. When I rose up again I gasped, there was a swastika on the screen.
“What’s the meaning of this”, I turned angrily to our tormentor. “Don’t worry”, he reassured us. “I took the liberty of working out how probable it was; that the Germans won the Second World War. It’s a wide margin of a low probability, but my number was the centre of the range, and we seem to have hit target. Now those clever Jerrys had a number of projects, which got flattened when we beat them. So why not nick there ideas now come to fruition, and use them for ourselves.”
I tried the usual set of passwords. Luckily I’m not too imaginative on that front. So it usually worked, but this time I was stumped. With a told you so look on my face, I turned to the tight-lipped official. “Make it work or else” he ordered. I tried again, but this time Jerry butted in. “Oh shove out of the way” and he started tapping away. “I did some hacking at uni, knew it would come in handy someday.” Half an hour later we were in.
The next day over lunch, in an up beat bistro on the strand. Jerry shared our night’s takings. “There were a number of patents, some military” he frowned at Penrose. “But most were pretty neat transport and communication advancements.” “Good” beamed the grey suited gent, and popped a sprout in his mouth. But just then his eyes started to bulge. I thought he was chocking, so I leant back to enjoy the show. But he just swallowed involuntarily, still staring over my shoulder. I followed his gaze. It was then that I saw the giant of a man. He was bearing down on our table. I looked about for witnesses to the scene. The place seemed to have cleared. On the exits stood stony faced solders, rifles at the ready.
“Penrose” the big man growled. “What this about the department for a Greater Britain? Why aren’t you back at your desk at the tax office?” Penrose stood to go mumbling, “yes sir.” The other let him rise then bellowed. “No, you’d better stay. After all, it’s you who’s been playing cat and mouse with Tom and Jerry here.”
Then a grip like a ton of bricks, the man mountain held my friend and I down. “Yes,” continued the impressive figure above us. “You’re getting a promotion Penrose. I think you’d better head up this department for a Greater Britain, with these two fine lads. And I’ve just the office for you to work in.”
So now I’m on easy street. All the booze and entertainment a fellow can take. It’s just that I have to spend eight hours a day checking computers, spaced about twenty feet apart. Then I pass the data onto Jerry, who next gives his results to Penrose. Finally Penrose submits them through a small slot in the wall. And if I ever did get through the door, no doubt the guard dogs, guns and razor wire would stop me getting too far.
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