Sidella Solston has decided to skip work for a couple of eons. In fact, while she's at it she might as well just hop out of the universe. She's tired of her job, tired of people, but mostly just tired. Relationships haven't panned out, she isn't really 'feeling' her job, and overall the whole planet seems unsatisfying. Frustratingly enough, only astronauts and billionaires normally get to leave the world behind.
However, a hundred crack-pot ideas and some experimenting with gadgetry lets her find another way off the big green rock. Sidella hijacks a room in her university's museum to build a mad-science project that sends her somewhere else entirely.
Unfortunately, that somewhere else entirely proves to be inhabited by a rather interesting crowd. Their leader, DirNaut, finds it rather odd to see Sidella, a strange new addition to the SyncPoint. That's because, usually, no one means to arrive on that weird little ball of junk. Show Less
She moved from artifact to artifact through a long storage room. Its walls were lined with cabinets. The shelves were packed with boxes of ‘specimen' museum bits and pieces that might one day make it to the showroom floor. The specimen room, F3.5, was one of many within Sidella’s domain. It was her job to maintain and clean and sort and tag. Usually, she spent her time inspecting chipped tools and stone bits attempting to understand history. However, over several months she’d converted the storeroom into something else entirely.
She scrutinized a sprawling tangle of devices with the caution used for picking eggshells out of a frying pan. Historical errata were mounted on little devices that Sidella had devised through research and intuition. Each gizmo had a group of wires running toward the opposite end of the room. All terminated into small electronic hubs. These hubs were wired into a laptop with a mash-up of electrical tape and USB connectors. In essence, the whole construction looked cobbled together and crackpot. That’s because it was.
Sidella didn't care what it looked like, she only wanted it to work. It seemed highly unlikely that it would, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t try. With everything connected just right, there might be a chance. The odds were probably far better than winning the lottery, finding your long lost twin, or getting along with in-laws.
Hopefully a careful inspection would increase those odds even further. Each little station had an accelerometer, crude spectrometers, a magnetometer, and other varied sensors. These sent signals back to the PC. The PC responded to these signals by adjusting four servo motors controlling the base of each station. They could rotate and shift on every axis through the magic of Radio Shack purchases, all the while radiating a varying pulse of current. The science behind the mess was mostly theory and internet speculation, but prior tests had been promising.
Yesterday, Sidella had tested each of the stations for connectivity, control, and overall responsiveness. It was the final step before she could try for an escape. All of it was madness, but it was a rational kind of madness. Moving away, changing jobs, even drugs were just more of the same reality. The only real escape seemed to be death, though Sidella was still unsure if that would be permanent. All other choices exhausted, it seemed as if sanity's final recourse was madness.
Still, the setup seemed fairly tame compared to her childhood's view of a lunatic scientist. She had no high-voltage arcs of electricity shooting through the air. There were no giant switches to throw in a shout of triumph. Instead, she sat down rather unceremoniously at her keyboard and hit the enter key.
The device unlocked and she started a new diary entry. A little light at the built-in camera blinked to life, “So, day 72 of the ‘project.’ I’ve figured out the last bit of arrangement for my devices. Someone showed a correlation between disappearances and some key symbols used by travelers throughout history. It can’t work any less than the other thirty attempts. I think I’ve got the right mix of materials too, stuff from the Aztecs, Myans, Egyptians, Maori, Mycenaean; all the world’s greatest hits. I don’t think it matters where so much as when and how spread apart the cultures were.”
She glanced at the self-view and winced. Her hair was frizzy, reddish-brown strands wild from a mix of dry rooms and carpet. What concealer she’d smudged on earlier did little to combat the harsh lighting of the specimen room, and it made her nose look even more hawkish than normal, cheekbones even more sallow. Sidella shut off the diary program.
With a couple of keyboard shortcuts she pulled open the scripts to run her cobbled-together system. What had started as a silly hobby with her ex-girlfriend had become an obsession of escapism. Most of the escapism was in building the thing. A possibility of going Elsewhere wasn’t too bad either.
Staring at the script window, Sidella took a breath, “Work…” Then she hit the little play button.
The office came to life. She felt the shaky heat of excitement rushing through her. Something was Happening! The work she'd been struggling with was showing Results!
Each of the stations had started twitching, vibrating, and performing tiny balancing acts. The computer program was taking in a stream of data from the sensors and feeding back careful changes. Those changes, Sidella hoped, would help her alter reality.
Amazingly, that was what began to occur. She stood slowly, feeling the room's air thicken around her. An energetic thrum filled her body and her mind began to feel muddled and slow. She could swear that the room was starting to darken, and... twist. The walls were bending inwards toward the machinery and a peculiar change to the air made her think of grease-spots on the window from your forehead.
She moved into the midst of her devices. They surrounded her, each twitching in smaller and smaller movements. The artifacts were finalizing their position, honing in on something unheard and unseen. One internet contributor, JurrasicFark11, believed in the continual probability shift of reality and possibilities of affecting that shift toward the less likely. Sidella hoped that were true as she felt her jaw drop open. Her breath seemed caught, air unyielding. It was becoming harder to be there, harder to exist as she was...
Then there was a pop, tiny and significant. Out of the corner of her eye she saw one of the artifacts topple and roll along the floor. The back of her mind dutifully forced a dry spoken comment, “Belt ornament, circa 500 BCE, probably Mayan, jade, condition excellent. To store for museum display. Capacitor overload.” The air cleared, her mind steadied, and the room seemed to brighten and solidify. Her head swam and she was overwhelmed by dizziness.
On her knees, Sidella watched as the lights flickered and returned to their regular pleasant glow. Her back was covered in sweat and her joints ached. She suddenly felt very tired and ready for hot tea and warm blankets. Glancing at her watch, its hands were frozen in place. The wall clock didn’t appear to be of any use either, it was running backwards.
She stood, forced to hold onto a shelving unit. It was hard to think, hard to believe what her senses spoke. The world felt thin, a sheer fabric projection that she'd suddenly fall through. Stumbling to the computer, she glanced at the screen and watched its readout. It hummed along just fine, apparently far enough away not to be affected by the Field.
The readout showed perfect performance, all except for that one platform. The rest of the gadgets were still twitching, small movements of adjustment too small for the eye to follow. She exited the system and gave the command to shut down. The time had shown nearly two hours after her watch's frozen hands and she didn’t like that glaring fact yelling at her. Reality was supposed to do one of two things: remain unyielding or allow itself to be stripped away. Gray areas were just confusing and annoying. The devices stuttered to a stop, the room suddenly still and quiet.
Sidella flipped the lights off. It hurt to leave right then. She was so close, but it was also hard to move, let alone fix the busted machine. It was too difficult to concentrate and there’d probably be soldering involved. Too many burnt fingertips went with tired use of tools. She needed sleep, needed to clear her head.
‘Tomorrow.’ The thought resounded with certainty.
As Sidella left her office, she locked up and swiped her access card to set the security system. A little camera flash made her remember the state of her frizzy hair and she groaned. Making way to the front of the building, Sidella was met by the security guard at the front desk.
"Ms. Solston! You've been at work this whole time?"
Sidella looked up from fumbling with her keys, thoughts far from anything in the current world, "Oh? Oh, yes." She found her throat tight and dry, voice rough after so many hours of silence. She leaned up against the desk, trying not to show how much she needed its support, “Yep, another one of those nights, Jim. I get wrapped up in work and when I look up, it's tomorrow already."
Jim was a mid-forties security guard with graying sideburns, portly belly mismatched against the frame of a linebacker. His eyes always followed Sidella with a bit more interest in the thinness of her shirt than the possibility of stolen museum property. “Oh I know,” he said, eyes rising to meet hers, “But I thought you'd gotten away from spending too much time at work. It's been months since I've seen you here this late. You and Rebecca doing okay?"
Sidella gave a tight, pained smile, "Oh, you know, relationships are like the tides, or rollercoasters. Whatever." It was the best she could do in her current mental state, especially seeing as how Rebecca had left months ago. Still, small talk might keep Jim from questioning the late nights, might give him some dry hope for something beyond chitchat. Let him think her ‘work ethic’ was due to relationship woes and not a mad science experiment.
She steeled herself to stand, pushing away from the desk. She found herself feeling steadier, possibly well enough to walk away without arousing suspicions of drunkenness. That’d sure look great on her record. Just as long as Jim didn’t feel any reason to review the tapes before tomorrow night, she didn’t really care. Tomorrow she’d be long gone, well, if everything worked.
Jim pulled out a pen and notepad, beginning to scribble, "You know, me and some other guys from around here meet up before the night shift starts. You should join us." He ripped the page away from its pad, sliding it toward Sidella.
"Well..." She paused, peering at the writing without actually reading, "I don't know that I'd be the best company..."
Jim cut her off, "No, come on. It's just a couple of the other university faculty. We don't really drink so much as sit there complaining about kids and politics. Bipartisan complaints are welcome!"
Sidella took the paper to shut the man up, folding it carefully and keeping her eyes on the task, "Perhaps, yes? Will that stay your urging? I think the last thing anyone wants is a morose teetotaler shifting uncomfortably at the corner of the table. I do a mean impression of a wall, but walls are probably friendlier."
Jim raised his hands defensively, "I'm not pushing, just... offering. You've been working here for years, and you're starting to get sucked into this place. Much longer, you'll turn into another of the school's artifacts."
Sidella grimaced a little, "Perhaps, but these relics are treated quite well. I’d give up a little freedom to be so nicely cared for. They get nice little anti-static blankets and everything." She turned to go.
The guard called out as his point-of-interest reached the door, "Have a good night, Ms. Solston. You're always welcome at the pub."
Despite Sidella's rudeness, Jim seemed hopeful.
The door clanking shut was still the only response.