You are about to embark on an adventure, the likes of which you have never imagined.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chapter Two

Tesla picked up his papers from the podium and gestured Alice towards the double doors. He followed her out into the foyer, and opened the front door for her. They stepped out onto Regent Street as an airship drifted overhead, heading south across the Thames.

As the zeppelin’s shadow passed over them, Tesla turned to Alice. “You will, of course, need a place to construct this device of yours. A laboratory or something of the like.”

Alice nodded. “I have a workshop of sorts.” She smiled. “The back parlor in my house. I never use it, and it has hardly anything in it.” She stepped forward to flag down a coach. “I can show you, if you have the time.”

“Yes, of course,” Tesla replied, stepping up to the curb beside her as a coach rolled to a stop. “For an endeavor such as this, I have all the time in the world.”

The coach took them across central London, and into the East End. They stopped in front of a mid-sized house on Newark Street. It was two stories of pale grey stone, set back from the street behind two elm trees.

“Here we are,” Alice said, stepping out of the coach.

“I do not believe I have ever been to this part of London,” Tesla remarked. “We exactly are we?”

“Whitechapel,” Alice replied. “It’s a decent neighborhood, so long as you don’t stay out after dark.”

Tesla gave her a puzzled look. “What happens after dark?”

“Murder,” Alice said, walking up to the house. “So far, four prostitutes have been killed not far from here,” she said over her shoulder as Tesla followed her up to the front door. She took a key out of small side pocket on her corset and unlocked the door. She stepped into the foyer and ushered Tesla past her, closing the door behind them, throwing them both into the darkness that heavy drapes provided. “They were… well, they were torn apart. I know a physician at the hospital just up the street, and he has told me that they were an awful sight to see.”

“What would drive a man to such a thing?” Tesla asked as Alice led him through the dimly lit house into the back parlor. The room was empty, save for a roll top desk, a library table, and one lone chair, which pushed up against the far wall. A fireplace occupied the southern wall beside the door. A large window took up the majority of the western wall to the left of the door, and heavy-framed mirrors adorned the other walls. Daylight streamed in between the slightly parted shades, casting a spear of light across the floor to their feet.

“Impossible to say,” she replied, “unless you were to track the madman down and ask him.” She followed the beam of light to the window and pulled open the drapes. Bright sunlight filled the room, rebounding off of the mirrors to flood every corner. Alice turned back from the window; with the main source of light still behind her, a bright aura surrounded her until she stepped forward. She walked back to Tesla, and turned halfway back towards the window, glancing out at the autumn sky. In the direct sunlight, her previously grey-blue eyes fluoresced to azure. She blinked and turned back to Tesla, her eyes fading back to cold steel blue.

“I know this isn’t optimum laboratory space,” she said, “but unfortunately I don’t have access to anything else.”

Tesla surveyed the room. “It should suffice, provided we do not set anything on fire.”

“Has that happened?” Alice asked with a suppressed measure of excitement.

In response, Tesla raised his eyebrows for a second, the corners of his mouth creeping up into a secretive smile. He crossed the room with a long-legged stride, coming to a stop in front of the library table. He tentatively ran a hand across its surface and glanced as his fingertips. He looked back at Alice.

“It is quite a bit cleaner than I would have expected from a room you never use,” he remarked with a nod of appreciation. He leaned back against the table, his hands resting against the front edge.

“I had hoped I’d be using it soon,” Alice explained. She too crossed the room and pulled the solitary chair away from the desk. Taking a seat, she looked up at Tesla. “You can’t imagine what an honor it is to work with a scientist of your caliber. I didn’t actually expect to agree.”

“I recognize a promising venture when I see one, Miss Hartdegan. I have not yet had the pleasure of building a time machine, and I am surely not going to pass up the only opportunity I may ever have.”

Alice slapped down both of her hands onto the desk before her. “Then we best get to work.”

Within twenty minutes, dozens of papers covered in sketches and equations had freed themselves from the confines of the roll top desk and were strewn across the desk and library table. Some conceded to gravity and drifted to the floor

“As you can see from…” Alice began, lifting the papers in front of her off of the desk. Her brow furrowed as she peered underneath them. She set the papers back down and looked around. “Where the…” She stood and looked at the floor around the desk. “Ah! Here we are!” she exclaimed as she stooped to pick up the offending page. As she was about to stand, the stack of papers on the desk slid onto the floor. Alice closed her eyes and sighed.

“Do you require some assistance?” Tesla asked from his position still leaning against the table.

“Oh, no, I’ve got it,” Alice responded, picking up the mutinous stack of papers and rising to her feet. “I just need…” She looked up at the wrought iron-framed mirror above the desk. She dropped the papers onto the desk and pulled open the desk drawer. After a moment of rifling through the drawer’s contents, she pushed it shut again and turned her attention to the interior of the roll top.

Still coming up empty-handed, Alice turned to the library table. Tesla looked up from the papers he was leafing through and raised an eyebrow. Alice took a step towards him. “I… sorry,” she said, hesitantly placing her hands on his upper arms, and moving him a few steps to the right. Once he was out of the way, she opened a drawer in the table and from it produced a clump of irregular metal balls. She pulled one free, held a page from the desk up to the iron mirror frame, and placed the metal ball on the page, affixing it to the frame.

“Magnets,” Tesla said, picking up the clump. “Very nice.”

Alice nodded, a wide Cheshire cat grin spreading across her face. “Thank you.” She picked up the others pages, one by one attaching them to the wrought iron. “Now, this,” she said, holding up the paper she had first been searching for, “this is what I wanted to show you.” She laid it on the library table, running her hands across it to flatten out the wrinkles.

“This is the basic design of the machine,” she explained. “You can see how it all should fit together, more or less.

Tesla leaned over and studied the sketch. “And these prominences here produce a sort of temporal field.”

“Exactly. Time and space should become fluid around the machine, allowing it to slip out of position in one time and place, and reemerging in another, like an extra-dimensional rabbit hole,” Alice replied. “The problem has been finding a way to generate enough electricity to not only create the field, but to maintain it.”

“Right,” Tesla said, nodding. He closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, he stared fixedly at the wall before him. “I need a piece of paper,” he said, without turning.

Alice laid a blank sheet of paper and a pencil on the table in front of Tesla. He looked down and rapidly sketched a design on the page. He slid the paper over to Alice.

“This should solve your problem.”

Alice picked up the paper and stared at it. “What am I looking at?”

“This is your power source.”

“How does it work?”

“It first derives a small amount of power from the electromagnetic field of the earth. Then, once it has opened the… eh, rift, it should be able to sustain itself using the energy in the space-time field itself.”

“Seriously?” Alice asked. “You can do that?”

“I believe so, yes,” Tesla replied. “I am fairly confident that I can build this device. Obtaining the materials, however, is another matter altogether.”

Alice nodded. “Make a list. We’ll see what we can get.”

“And what we cannot?”

“We’ll get another way.”

Tesla smiled. “I dare say I like you, Miss Hartdegan.”

“Then I think this will be an amicable partnership, Mr. Tesla,” she responded.

“Please, call me Nikola.”

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