Sunday, 3 May 2015

An Experiment in time -Extract 2

The two men led Alex through a maze of corridors and passageways, wherever she thought she was it was thrown out the window and on more than one occasion she had the sneaking suspicion that she had walked down the same corridor several times. Eventually they came to a halt outside an office. How the men knew it was the right office she had no idea. Looking up and down the narrow corridor, nothing stood out about the door they were stood in front of, it was a plain door, with no special markings or distinguishing features.
“Bring her in”
Alex hadn't even heard the men knock; in fact she was pretty sure they hadn't, but then again that wouldn't have been the strangest happening of the day.
The man standing to her left reached forward, opened the door and stepped back, clasping his hands in front of him in the style of a man trained by the military. Alex took this as her cue and stepped into the room.
“Please close the door behind you Miss Stone. The topic of our conversation is not one for prying ears.”
The voice belonged to the man sat behind the desk. He stood up as Alex closed the door, the men standing behind it having moved to either side. Turning around Alex took in the office. It was visibly the office of someone of high standing; the walls were lined with large bookshelves, their contents covering everything from politics to theoretical physics, Greek mythology to chemical engineering and a vast range of topics in between. The man himself was impeccably dressed. His crisp white shirt, navy tie and dress pants lay waste to the idea that he was a field agent. No, this was a man who sat behind a desk, made important decisions and told other people what to do.
“Please take a seat Alex, is it alright if call you Alex?”
His question may have seemed friendly, but Alex had a sense that no matter her answer he would be calling her by her first name.
“That will be fine, Sir. And what may I call you?” She didn’t really care if she sounded arrogant or self-important; she had been dragged from her bed in the middle of the night. She wasn’t about to be beaten in to submission by some man on a power trip. Not that he seemed put out by her attitude; rather he seemed to have been expecting that kind of response.
“My name is Damian King, but you’re more than welcome to keep addressing me as sir” He added, turning back to his chair. “Please take a seat, we have much to discuss.”
Alex sat in the single chair in front of the desk. I was noticeably smaller than the one Damian King sat in and as Alex raised her eyes to meet him she realised why. They chair forced the seated to look up to the man behind the desk, giving the illusion they were being interrogated. She didn’t have to think hard to imagine many men having been given the third degree in this chair.
“Do you have any idea why you’re here Alex?” King sat back in his chair watching Alex.
“No sir” Might as well keep up the ‘sir’ act, she though, keep him happy for a bit longer.
King smiled at the use of the pronoun again.
“We are in need of your assistance, a…” King paused “a delicate situation has arisen and we feel that you Miss Stone are the one to best aid us.”
“And who exactly are ‘We’?”
The perfect smile faltered at her comment.
“We are, shall we say, a privately funded company with interests which extend to many different areas.”
“I’m not going to get any more of an explanation than that am I?
“You’re a smart woman Alex, that’s why we need you.”
Alex sighed. From her current position she couldn’t see a way out of this, she was here to the duration and somewhere in the back of her mind, she didn’t really mind that.
“How can I help you?” She finally asked
King stood up and walked over to the bookshelf nearest the door. Carefully he picked up a small, leather bound book from the second shelf. He held it in his hand, examining its cover as if it was the first time he had held it. He glanced back over to Alex and flipped the book open, the pages falling open towards the back where a sheet of folded paper had been placed inside. King lifted out the paper, closed the book and placed it softly back on the shelf. He made no move to return to his chair behind the desk, instead he remained where he was and smoothed out the folded paper in his hands, eyes scrutinising the paper before him he looked back at Alex, still making no attempt to move.
Knowing exactly what he wanted but needing to prolong the wait Alex stood up and slowly walked over until she was standing in front of him.
“Would this have anything to do with what you want my help with?” Alex asked.
“It is”
“May I see it?”
“Not yet. First I need to clarify some questions.”
“Ok, but I’m pretty sure you’ve already done your research on me”
“We have conducted a thorough background search, you’re quite correct on that matter, but I would still like you to confirm one or two details for me.” He paced around the room coming to rest next to the desk; he leant back, leaning against it he looked Alex up and down once more. “You’re currently studying literature is that correct?
“Yes, I’m enrolled at…”
King cut her off “But you have dabbled in engineering and physics is that also correct?”
“Not entirely sir, before I came to America I did study engineering and design at Cambridge, but not physics, I undertook a wok placement within a laboratory though in my second year there.”
“Thank you for clearing that up Miss Stone, I will be of much use that you have a sound knowledge of engineering especially if you have lab training also.”
“I still don’t know what it is you want me to help with and that was all a very long time ago sir. I’m not sure how much of it I have remembered.” That was a lie. Alex had remembered all of it. She had even taught herself more than her tutors ever had, but that was something King didn’t need to know. Not until she knew his endgame anyway.
“We are also aware that you specialise in the works of HG Wells, we know you have studied him extensively, his books and his inventions. This, Miss Stone is where you come in. We find ourselves in a bit of a situation; our scientists, historians and researchers have all pulled up blank. We need a new set of eyes and younger mind to hopefully pull us out of this rut.”
“I will try my best Sir, but I can’t promise that I will be able to help.”
“Oh, I’m sure you will be a great help. You see Alex; it’s one of Wells’ inventions we have an issue with. We just can’t seem to perfect it. We know in theory what it should be but we can’t figure out Wells’ code.  Alex, we need you to tell us how Wells’ created Cavorite.”
“Cavorite?” Alex laughed. “You’re telling me that your plan is to manufacture Cavorite?”
“Yes”
Alex paused. There was no tone of jest in his voice. She was just going to laugh off his request and head back home but his response had her choosing her next words more carefully than she first anticipated.
“With the utmost respect Sir, it’s a sci-fi story. An invention created to drive a plot line, it’s…”
“I am well aware of what Cavorite is, or was, Miss Stone. But I assure you that it is highly plausible. Scientists have been attempting for decades to get it right and we’ve close. Very close. But Wells never actually described the method. He gave us clues but no definitive answer, and that Alex, is why we need you.” King continued.
“Me? Sir, I think you’re mistaken, I’m a literary scholar not a scientist.”
“You know more about Wells than the combined knowledge of everyone in this building, and as for your scientist remark… well, we both know that’s not entirely true, not with your past escapades” he replied, a definite emphasis on the word ‘past’.
Alex dropped her head.
“How did you…”
“Never mind, just know that we do. We need you. Wells left us a clue and we need your help deciphering it.”
Alex sighed, a resigned sound, signalling that she was not happy with the situation but was more than aware that she didn’t really have a choice in the matter. She took the piece of paper currently being presented to her and smoothed it out. Even if she had tried she could not contain the laugh which erupted out of her chest. The page was blank except for two lines of print.

Cavorite made as follows: take –

uless

“I’ll take from your laugh that you can be of some assistance to us?”
“This is an excerpt from a book Sir, HG’s book, The First Men in the Moon to be precise.”
“We’re aware of that, now what can you tell us.”
Talking about HG Wells was something Alex could do.
“Well, it was published in 1901 and many scholars believe that it was the….”
     “We mean about the code. What can you tell us about this” King said, gesturing to the paper
“This? Well, it’s from the final chapter. In the book, it’s the last communication Mr Cavor sends to Earth from the Moon. Bedford, the protagonist, believes that the Selenites, or moon people, are censoring the transmissions but that Cavor is unaware. Bedford thinks that they’re doing this so as to stop more men travelling to the moon and stop a potential invasion.” Alex looked around the room. “But I don’t understand Sir, this isn’t a code.”
“Despite what you might think Miss Stone I can assure you that it is. This is the clue to find the true instructions for developing Cavorite.”
Alex looked down at the sheet of paper again. She had read the book the quote had been taken from before. It was the first Wells story she had read, the story which had sparked her imagination and ultimately her career path. It was the story which, even now with her wall to wall library and piles of books strewn across the floor, she would always return to.  In fact, it was the book which was currently on her bed side table in her apartment, the story she had been reading before she fell asleep and was rudely awakened and dragged here and it was just that. A story. Not once had she thought it would be anything more or dreamed that these inventions could be real. Cavorite was, or is Alex supposed, an anti-gravity metal, based around the principal of combining Helium along with several other elements to create a compound which simply floats off to, well in Mr Bedford and Mr Cavor’s instance, the Moon.
For a while King didn’t say anything, he just watched. Watched as Alex pondered this little scrap of paper, analysing her face and trying to figure out what Alex was thinking.
“How can it be Sir, surely if this is true someone, a scientist, anyone would have figured this out by now! Or at least have come up with another way of making it, if it is indeed possible.”
“It is very possible Miss Stone; I can assure you of that.” King gestured to the chair. “This may take a while; you may want to sit down.”
Alex moved across the room and sat down in the chair, her hand still fisted around the scrap of paper.
“Now, I know you’re aware of Mr Wells, but do you also happen to be familiar with a Mr Tesla?”
“Nikola Tesla? Sure, I’ve heard of him, AC currents, tesla coil…”
“Were you aware that Mr Tesla was under the impression that he had received communications for Mars at the end of the 1800’s?”
“I’d heard the rumours, but I thought nobody could prove they were real.”
“Nobody could prove they weren’t either. The reason that it can’t be proved is because they were looking in the wrong places. Tesla incorrectly inferred that the signals originated on Mars, had the scientist looked a little closer he would have realised that they were in fact coming from the moon.”
It took Alex a little while to sense where this was going
“They were sent by HG.”
“Almost, though I do admire how quickly you are accepting these facts. We are unable to determine whether or not they were sent by Wells himself but we can certainly say that they were meant for him.”
“Who would be trying to communicate from the moon, Armstrong didn’t land there until ’69… Nineteen ’69 long after both Wells and Tesla died.”
“Think about everything you have learned tonight, would you like to take a guess as to where this is heading”
“Actually, Sir I’m just waiting for the moment I wake up back in my apartment, in my bed and realise all this is a dream and your men did not drag me from my sleep to tell me that HG Wells flew to the moon on a stupid space ship made of a material with does not exist and decided to send cryptic messages back to a man who believed he was talking to Martians!”
Alex was standing again, running her hands through her hair; this was not happening. Even HG Wells with his unparalleled imagination couldn’t come up with a plot line this fantastic.
King sighed, he had expected this reaction, and in fact he was a little surprised that it hadn’t come earlier. She had lasted much longer than he had when all this information had first been presented to him. It had been a lot harder for him to take in, he didn’t have her scientific mind or her extensive knowledge and love of literature. He had never even heard of Nikola Tesla until about a month ago. Yet here was Alex Stone. Still stood in his office in her pyjamas, having mind blowing and history altering facts thrown at her and she had barely batted an eyelid.
“I know it’s a lot to take in. I will have someone take you back to your apartment. All I ask is for you to sleep on the information you have learned here tonight. I am not asking you to give us your commitment now, but, if in the morning, you wish to learn more or give us your insight and opinion you know where to find us”
King reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a business card.  He rolled it between his thumb and forefinger before passing it to Alex.
“We could really use your help on this, please don’t just write it off. Think about it” He opened the door.




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