The Second Time Around

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There was a hiss as vapor pressures were released and cryogenic pumps whirred to life once again, pumping the liquid Helium out of the system. The powerful, super-conducting electromagnets had shut down, and the hatch to the vessel unlocked and opened automatically. A dense wave of vapor-heavy air rolled out into the chilled launch chamber and dissipated slowly.

The lab techs and research scientists all stood at the viewing windows, waiting anxiously. This had been by far the longest suspension yet and they wanted to watch as the heroic Dr. Paite emerged once more from the frozen belly of time itself.

Something was different this time, though. Before, Dr. Paite had always stepped out triumphantly as soon as the hatch was open. Now, though, the hatch stood open and the inside of the vessel had cleared completely. They could see part of the way inside the dimly lit dome from the observation windows, and nothing was moving.

"Something's not right," One of the research scientists mumbled, and he switched on the vessel's internal observation system. Fiber optic cables allowed the dim light from the inside of the spherical vessel to transmit through amplifiers and display images on the screen. He panned the entire volume of the sphere, but there was no trace of Dr. Paite in the vessel anywhere.

"Where is he?" One of the lab techs asked in a hushed, almost reverent voice. "He couldn't have gotten out of the vessel during the experiment. If he touched the skin anywhere it would have been enough to freeze his hand solid, much less the EM fields in the launch chamber."

"Where did he go?" Another lab tech asked in that same awed tone.

Dr. Wells pushed her horn-rimmed glassed up her small nose and brushed a lock of blond hair from her cheek. Softly, almost to herself, she whispered, "When did he go?"

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