Author : Bob Newbell
“Another ten billion dollars a year?!” said the Senator incredulously. “And that on top of the billions already spent annually? And for a scientific toy that only worked one time for a few minutes? And that had some kind of radiation leak or something right after you switched it on? You better have one hell of a sales pitch.”
The quantum physicist nodded. “I realize we’re asking for a lot, Senator. And I’m not insensitive to the fact that the country has lots of other expenses. But the safety of not just the nation but the world depends on the SuperString Collider getting more funding.”
“I’m inclined to doubt that, doctor. You scientists already played the world safety card when you convinced Congress and the administration to write you a check sufficient to fund a major war just so you could build that giant dome over your white elephant.” The cantankerous legislator pointed at the kilometer-wide geodesic hemisphere that dominated the landscape. “And you’ve had four years to get it up and running again.”
“It will never be turned on again. In fact, the collider no longer exists. But we need our budget increased just the same.”
The Senator looked at the scientist with utter disbelief.
“Four years ago when we did a trial run of the SSC,” continued the physicist, “the machine worked perfectly. For the briefest of moments the collider’s detectors confirmed the presence of a ten-dimensional hyperspace just as was theoretically predicted. Exactly 17 hours, 21 minutes, and 11.3 seconds after the SSC was shut down, an area around the machine roughly three-quarters of a kilometer in diameter changed.”
“The land on which the SSC had stood and the area around it had transformed into a desert. We detected low-level radioactivity in the soil. We thought the machine had created some kind of chain reaction that caused it and its surrounding to disintegrate. But 17 hours, 21 minutes, and 11.3 seconds after the facility’s security camera telemetry ceased, the area changed again, this time into a swamp.”
The Senator shook his head incredulously. “A swamp?”
“But like no swamp ever seen on Earth,” said the scientist. “We were able to retrieve several plant and animal specimens before the next transformation cycle occurred. Not one of them fit anywhere in the taxonomy of life on this planet. The military quickly took command of the situation. I and my colleagues had to sign nondisclosure agreements if we wanted to continue working on the project. A couple of acquaintances who refused have been ‘missing’ for some time.”
The car pulled itself up to the dome and automatically opened its doors. After going through a security checkpoint, the physicist and the Senator entered the dome. Steel and glass partitions reached from the floor to the inward-sloping interior wall of the dome. The partitions extended around the interior circumference of the structure hermetically sealing the area.
The contained land, at the moment, was covered in ice. A large, white, frog-like creature slid on the ice on its belly, its hind legs beating furiously to propel it across the tundra.
“What…what is that thing? An alien?”
“No, Senator, that creature is as much an Earthling as you or I. But it’s from an alternate Earth, an Earth with a radically different history and evolution. Sometimes it’s like the surface of the Moon. Other times, ‘people’ show up. Not human, but intelligent and bewildered. For a little over 17 hours, anyway.”
“Are you sure,” asked the Senator, “ten billion more a year will be enough?”