“…it didn’t work! I knew I should’ve stayed behind and made sure he didn’t re-start the project, but he just couldn’t help himself! With all the chronoporting I’ve been doing, I’m starting to get confused how many times I’ve done this. I’m afraid I’m getting farther and farther from the reality I was born in…
“Ok, so that means I’ll have to chronoport once again to his exact time-line and make sure he doesn’t even think about sketching out his plans on a paper napkin in the first place! Kind of like, why not take out Hitler when he was a baby before he even had a chance at committing the Holocaust. But, then one would run into the problem of morality of murdering a child—that had done nothing wrong! At least, to that point in the child’s life…
“Then there’s the time-line that would be changed. That one piece of fabric—no matter how despicable!—was one of the threads that made up the time-line that I was born into. So, like with the analogy of Hitler, what would change in my time-line if I were to accomplish this? Not that I’m trying to compare him to Hitler—for obvious reasons, he’s not! But he opened the door to those who are almost as destructive, so isn’t that kind of the same?
“Also, it’s getting harder for me to get the necessary parts for the SCRs for me to chronoport. It’s not as easy as the first few times I’ve chronoported…I suspect that those same Anarchists have been doing what I’ve been doing: jumping in back and forth into this time-line; trying to change things! I think they’ve been tinkering with some of the history of technological feats just to make it harder for me to find the required hardware to assemble the SCRs, so that I cannot chronoport anymore. And if that is the case, then we are all in for a lot more trouble than we’ve even imagined!
“I’ve got to go…someone’s coming! This is not the place for me to be seen. If I’m seen, that, too, will alter our time-line! If you don’t hear from me after this message…it, it probably means this time around I failed…again. But this time, I don’t think I’ll be able to make it back, so you might have to draw up plans to send someone else to replace me.
“We cannot let him develop this project! If you do send someone else, I suggest commander Tadosh…he’s always proven a standup soldier under my command…Dr. Darcy Toole; First Commander within Pangea. 2008.”
Seattle, Washington; Spring of 2008; Monday morning…
Cheri Fillmore, executive assistant of Miracles, Inc., was conducting a quick tour of the company’s towering skyscraper. The 95-story edifice was just north of the downtown area of Seattle.
The corporation specialized in space engineering and had a myriad of contracts from both the government and private sectors. The majestic Miracles Tower certainly reflected the company’s reputation.
“Now, as you can see from the size of our Accounting office alone that Miracles, Inc. is a very large player in the research and development field, not just in the application of science…”
Cheri took the large group of new employees down a bustling hallway in the middle of the skyscraper. The Accounting division, like all other divisions within Miracles, had wide windows where the employees were easily seen. This gave the company the impression of transparency, quite literally.
Now the column of people that Cheri led were snaking around a corner and headed to a series of elevators.
“Any questions from those recently hired for the Accounting division,” Cheri asked as she faced the new employees. She was greeted with several people shaking their heads.
After Cheri had pushed a button to an elevator to take the tour down one more floor, she noticed three of the new employees chatting among themselves. They weren’t loud. In fact, they were further back in the tour. But it was the demeanor that they wore as they spoke. It rubbed Cheri as suspicious. It was something she would have to keep in the back of her mind…
A couple of hours later, the tour group was having lunch in one of the building’s lunchrooms. The group was too large to sit at one table, so they scattered themselves in smaller groups. Cheri, blonde and lanky, worked the tour group. She just had a small sandwich and a soda for herself and was already up and walking around the tables, answering various questions from the group.
“…so, Miracles was the corporation responsible for the Artifice Avatar,” one of the men in the tour at a far table asked Cheri. It had been several minutes since they were discussing the resume of the company.
“Yep,” Cheri said proudly, as she leaned on a nearby table. “Miracles founder, Dr. Patrick McClain, had designed the software. He named it Charles…don’t ask me why!” There was a smattering of chuckles in the group. “Anyway, Charles is basically an Artificial Intelligence interface program designed to react in very human-like emotions.”
“Kind of like the HAL-9000 from the movie ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ ” one of the women responded as she slurped from her coffee.
Cheri considered the new employee’s words before responding. “Yeah, you could say that. But just mix the HAL program with the 1980s’ Max Headroom and you’d get a better since of the Artifice Avatar.”
This time the group laughed out loud. The juxtaposition of such cultural dichotomy was strange!
Another new employee, a woman in her forties, spoke up from another table in the cafeteria. “Why Miracles, Incorporated?”
Cheri turned to face the woman. “You mean, why did Dr. McClain choose the word Miracles for the name of the company?”
“Well, Dr. McClain—or as most people around the world know him, Miracle McClain—and I talked about this one day. I had suggested to him that, perhaps, we needed to change the name of the corporation to something that was less…oh, I don’t know, less religiously inferred.”
“Obviously he stuck to the name,” another male of the group pointed out with a little chuckle.
“Yeah,” Cheri responded, “yeah, he did. Which is quite ironic, considering that Dr. McClain is a self-described agnostic! He’s always had this thing about today’s scientists being the inheritors of the shamans and the alchemists…that modern scientists are the ones who influence contemporary society in the same way that ancient shamans did in ancient times, or the way that pre-scientists of ancient Europe did before true science was born.”
“You mean that Dr. McClain sees himself as some kind of old wise man on a hill, even though he’s barely into his thirties,” the woman asked with incredulity.
“No, I definitely wouldn’t put it that way,” Cheri clarified. “Think of Patrick more like a Leonardo da Vinci…you know, an artist who was brave enough to try his hand at science. Sometimes it’s a hit and miss game, like some of da Vinci’s scientific ideas. But when it’s a hit, then the ideas can effect society for hundreds of years into the future!”
There was a little stirring among the employees.
“Well, what’s wrong with what I just said,” Cheri questioned with a grin, curious about their reaction.
“If I could say respectfully,” another of the new employees, a young man in his early twenties, now came in, “Dr. McClain is a very rich man who can afford to miss from time to time. And let’s face it, Dr. McClain is a well-educated scientist, not some Bohemian artist who stumbled across an avant-garde concept that changed history! And please don’t misunderstand me, Cheri, I think Dr. McClain’s a great scientist and a great businessperson. But, I’m sorry…I just can’t pretend that a young billionaire of our time has anything in common with an ancient European artist like da Vinci, who had to conceptualize from scratch, so to speak.”
Cheri chuckled to herself. “Fair point, Herald. Look, all that I’m saying is that it takes a special person to be able to do the various scientific projects that Dr. McClain has done with his company. Creating nanotech robots to help amputee patients in hospitals. Creating or discovering chemicals that can help turn bacteria-infested water into drinking water so that poor people around the world can have more drinkable water. Or projects that are cutting edge mechanical feats, like Dr. McClain’s levitating roller coaster rides that were just unveiled in Florida or one of his special space jets that keep on setting records for speed…”
Cheri looked off to a corner of the lunchroom as she quietly shook her head. She not only admired Patrick from a professional standpoint, privately, she had always been attracted to him. He had movie star looks about him and he had a lot of money…two things Cheri had always found attractive in a man with such prowess! It was too bad for her that Patrick was happily wedded. To a beautiful lawyer who taught law, to add insult to injury!
“I think he does miracles,” Cheri said softly with a shrug to the new employees.
Cheri was glad the tour was going so well. But as she looked around the cafeteria, she noticed that same group of three men in her tour that were whispering among themselves by an elevator. They sat by themselves and weren’t sharing in the laughter. It wasn’t so much as them not laughing. Rather, they seemed to be discretely discussing something as one of them looked around the lunchroom. Again, Cheri noticed, they were back in the class—so to speak. Just like many kids do when they did not want attention drawn to them or because they had other interests in mind. Cheri decided to get to know them.
“So, do you think you’ll like it here,” Cheri said to them, surprising them as she had walked up from behind them after going around the lunchroom.
The oldest of the three, probably in his mid-forties, responded. Surprisingly, he had a pleasant attitude.
“Oh, hi…Um, yeah! I think I’ll like it here. I can’t speak for my two friends here, but…” He looked around the lunchroom as he nodded his head. “Yeah, I think I could do well here.”
The other two were younger men. To Cheri, they looked to be in their early- to mid-twenties. She noticed that all of their small milk cartons were mutilated.
“What happened to your milk,” Cheri put to them with a strained face.
“Our what,” again, the older responded with a confused face. He then looked down at all three milk cartons and flinched with understanding. “Oh! Is that what these are? We, uh, had trouble opening them. You’ll have to forgive us. We’re new to this—country.”
“Oh, really,” Cheri said with genuine surprise. “I hadn’t noticed an accent…where are you guys from?”
“Europe,” the middle-ager simply said with a smile.
Cheri stood quietly, giving room for the man to expound upon exactly where in Europe he was from. But he didn’t. He just sat there with, from what Cheri could tell, a manufactured grin. Okay, she thought within herself, I’ll make sure to lock my car doors around you guys!
“Cheri,” she said to them as she held out her hand to shake the older man’s hand. But he did not reciprocate the gesture. In fact, he nervously looked at his companions, leaving Cheri with her arm extended for a period of time.
“I’m Stefan,” one of the younger ones unexpectedly blurted out as he halfway stood up from his chair and shook her hand. He was handsome and buffed. He pointed to the other twenty-something. He, too, was muscular. “This is my friend, Tage.”
Tage stood up fully from his chair, slightly genuflected his head, and shook Cheri’s hand.
“Nice to meet you,” Tage said, again, with an apparent contrived smile.
Cheri shook his hand with a blank look on her face. The two younger ones finally sat down as the oldest of the three stood and introduced himself.
“I’m Drogheda,” he said, finally shaking Cheri’s hand.
“So, where are you guys going to work within Miracles?”
“I’ve been hired as an office clerk in the Accounting division,” Drogheda informed, now seated.
Cheri silently nodded her head as she looked to the two other men at the table. “What about you two?”
“I’m with the Maintenance division,” Tage said, “as a janitor.”
“And I’m the new courier,” Stefan simply stated.
“Okay,” Cheri said after a long pause, “it was interesting meeting you three.”
Cheri had turned to grab another soda from a soda machine until Drogheda called out to her, making Cheri pivot on her heels.
“Um…Ms. Fillmore…I have a rather esoteric hobby in science. You know, I like to read Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Discover magazine…So, I was just curious if part of today’s tour would take us to Dr. McClain’s laboratory?”
Now Cheri was frowning and began to tense up.
“Dr. McClain’s lab is off-limits to the general public,” she said very deadpan. “I know it’s been rumored in the media that he has some secret laboratory where he does miracle science, but the truth is, it could be anywhere! My guess is the lab is in one of Seattle’s suburbs—you know, away from overly-curious people, such as yourself.”
“Even to those who are employed at—“
“Drogheda, I’m an executive of Miracles, Inc. and I’ve never been there.”
With that, she turned once again and got her soda and went to another table of new recruits. The three men glance at one another and remain quiet the rest of the lunch break.