Chapter Fourteen

DIMO(N) Office of Nonhuman History and Research, Pentagon, Arlington VA

Norman Baines sat at his desk quietly leafing through a text in medieval French recently transferred from the Vatican archives. To be truthful, ‘desk’ was an understatement, as the main table in his office was piled with various books as high as six feet and was becoming more of a fort. There were hi-res digital scans on his computer of course, but Norman absorbed the information better if it was in his hands.

“Anybody home?” A voice called in an atrocious cockney accent, “I’m looking for Professor Dumbledore.” A knock at the doorway snapped Norman out of his work.

“Charlie!” Norman jumped up, knocking over a pile of scrolls at his left and smiled. Rushing over, he gave his twin brother a big hug and then stepped back, “Hey, check out the hardware,” he made a motion of shining his brother’s rank insignia “Captain Baines, eh?”

“Reporting as ordered.” Charles smiled and presented a Vulcan salute to his brother. The memories from their youth made both men laugh. “After I brought your work to them, and did a bit of assisting on some of the new projects DIMO(N) working on, they felt a promotion was in order.”

“Oh yeah?” Norman raised an eyebrow. “What’s your new posting?”

Charlie paused, somewhat confused, “Uh… here? Norm? Bro… I sent you an email a week ago. I’m the new military liaison between the DIMO(N) Applied Technologies at Yale and the head of the civilian researchers here.”

Norman furrowed his brow and turned around to his desk, pressing a button on his keyboard, made of brass and faux stone. A familiar chime sounded, and after quickly scanning the text Norman whirled back,

“That’s great, Charlie, it sounds like all that engineering finally paid off! Well, let’s introduce you to the rest of the department, starting at the top!” Norman went to the doorway and called to his assistant “Carol, who’s the head of R amp;D now that O’Shea got kicked upstairs?”

Carol sighed slightly. “You are, Mister Baines. For almost a month now.” She shook her head and smiled. “You really need to stop reading demonology texts during department meetings.”

“Oh…” Norman walked back to his computer and tapped through another few e-mails, then shrugged his shoulders. “Then I guess… Welcome to DIMON, Captain Baines! We hope you’ll have a hell of a time.” He shook his brother’s hand. “Why don’t we get some dinner and then I’ll show you around.”

“It’s 10 a. m, Norman.” Charlie shook his head at his brother.

“Oh,” Norman checked his watch and Charlie noticed the numbers were a system he didn’t recognize. “I guess I did that whole staying-up-late reading thing again. Carol!” He called, “how long have I been here?”

“Almost two days, Sir. Today is Thursday. There’s a change of clothes on the hook in your bathroom. You can freshen up there.”

Norman glanced at his brother questioningly, and Charlie made a display of holding his nose in one hand and pointing with the other. Norman returned the salute and dashed off to his private bathroom while Charlie sat down, chuckling. “So, you’re the one who’s keeping my brother fed, watered, and fully-dressed?”

“Yes, Sir, Captain Baines; As much as can be expected. Sometimes he wanders off through the archives and we can’t find him. We gave him a GPS tracker, but he lost it.” Carol continued reviewing and compiling reports for Norman. “He’s a brilliant man, Captain, he just tends to get tunnel vision. A good assistant knows how best to direct and guide the people they work for. You should see some of the intel he pulls out of those texts, it’s astounding.”

“Yeah, you should’ve seen him when he was a dungeon master. Memorized about forty books in under two months.” He grinned. “The adventures were fun, too.” Carol smiled mischievously and held up a small, amethyst dodecahedron, “They still are, Captain. I have a level 9 Tiefling. Tuesday night is game night.”

Just and Charlie began to ask a follow-up question his brother returned, “Alright, let’s eat!” Norman bounded out the door, showered and dressed faster than any would have believed possible. “I think there’s a place in the food court that has fried chicken,” He stopped short and peered into the hallway, confused, “though I don’t actually know where it is…”

DIMO(N) Offices, Pentagon, Arlington, VA

After an enjoyable lunch, nearly an hour away from reading musty parchment, Norman was far more social and tuned in to the world around him. He was enjoying showing his brother around the massive suite of offices in the C-Ring that DIMO(N) now occupied. They came up to a large set of double doors and Norman chuckled, “Oh, now this is a great place, man. You’re going to love these guys!” He opened one of the doors next to a sign that read ‘Innovative Universal Dynamics’ and they stepped in. Charlie stood in awe at one end of a heavily modified by a mid-sized lecture. The walls were rife with computer screens, white boards, blackboards, and even squares of cork with thumbtacks. Diagrams, parchment, maps, charts, blueprints and unidentified documents spanning 3 millennia were plastered on every surface. Throughout the room dozens of men and women paced, strolled, stalked, or ran amongst the clutter, studying this chart or that text, conferring, arguing, and occasionally shouting. They worked at tables and computer stations set around seemingly at random, and off to one side there was a lounge set up with sofas and a small espresso machine where a handful of people were dozing peacefully.

“What is this place?” Charles asked in amazement.

“This,” Norman waved at the room in a grand proclamation “is where we try to make sense of it all. Since the discovery of the existence of Hell and Heaven, physicists have had to throw out a lot of what they thought they knew and start over. We’ve got people here from all over the spectrum that try to take what’s been observed about hell with what we know about our universe and try and fit them together. It’s sort of like a mad scientist convention, only with fewer super-weapons.”

A man in his late thirties walked up to the pair of brothers, and shook Norman’s hand. “Good to see you again, Norm! You here for another round?”

“No thanks, Doc. I’m just showing my brother our facilities, he’s the new liaison from ApTech.” He motioned to his brother “Captain Charles Baines, this is Doctor Junghalli, Lord of the Tank.”

“The Tank?”

“Oh yes, that’s what we call it.” Dr. Junghalli swept his arms around and up, as though he was addressing the masses of an imaginary throng. “Free-spirited discourse on the nature of existence- I suppose we could have called it a Salon but, well, these things tend to go their own way. If you’ve ever got some free time, Captain, feel free to stop by. An engineer with a military mindset could help immensely.”

“Thanks, Doctor.” Charles shook his hand. “But I’m afraid my time at the Academy didn’t cover quantum mechanics or multi-dimensional math.”

“Bah, that’s not what we’re doing here.” Dr. Junghalli shook his head and grimaced as though he was tasting a bitter pill, “We need ideas here in the Tank. Good ones, and then we work them over with the applied math department to see if they fit. See that man over there?” He gestured to a figure hunched over at a table with several pads of paper and a laptop gathered around him, furiously writing, “That’s Banks, he writes science fiction and he’s got a good notion of dimensional mechanics. Went to Stirling in the UK, never took any upper-level science.” Doctor Junghalli led them to the front of the room where they stood at the foot of three massive touch-screen displays.

The first had a sign underneath it at waist level, engraved in brass, that read “What we think the universe looks like TODAY”. It contained a rendering of a broad plane with small swirls on it. “You see, right now we think that all of existence is about two orders of magnitude older than the universe, and that most of it is just white noise. BUT,” He held up a finger and Charlie had a flashback to his college physics lectures, “We think that we, and our companion universes, are merely localized reductions in the entropy that happened by chance, and that while earth and our universe are a bit more stable, we know it won’t last forever and then we go back to maximum entropy.

Charlie looked at the diagram and frowned, but before he could ask a question, Junghalli pointed to the second sign: “What these words mean TODAY!!” There was a host of terms on the board- Universe, Portal, Gradient, Spatial Realm, and Dimension topped the list and seemed to be changing more than the others. Under ‘Dimension’ was a hand-written, asterisked, double-underlined note: Over-use of this word will result in you buying lunch for the people you confuse. “As you can see, Captain, our understanding has become very fluid. An idea we come up with today may make everything fit perfectly tomorrow and then be proven completely wrong in a week.” He tapped the screen with his knuckles, “It’s all about getting this board empty.”

He pointed to the third display; “What we still don’t know.” Underlined and highlighted several times was ‘How to target another universe from the outside.’ “Believe me, Aperture Science has their people in here a few times a day, hoping that we’ll be able to come up with something. As long as heaven can strike us with impunity, we’ll lose this war.”

A frustrated “Arrrgh!” echoed from one of the workstations, and a man and woman laughed as another man stalked across the room to a large empty water jug. He reached into his wallet and pulled out a $20, then stuffed it in. “What’s that about?” Charlie asked.

“That’s the ‘dead scientist’ jar.” Norman smirked. “When the Tank started, people used to keep saying ‘If only we had Einstein on this’ or ‘If only I could show this to Wheeler’. Really, they wouldn’t be nearly as helpful as we think, because we tend to imagine that dead scientists would still know what we know. So, to keep the frustrations down, anytime anyone wishes they had a brilliant dead scientist, they put the money in the jar. Then, on the last Friday of the month, we buy booze.” He looked at the forlorn man who had just surrendered his money, “That was $20 he put in? He must’ve been wishing for a Nobel Prize winner. Those guys are expensive.”

“Sounds like a great place you’ve got here, bro.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Baines.” Carol had suddenly materialized behind them, tapping Norman on the shoulder. “You just got a call for a debriefing tomorrow with Miss Lugasharmanaska and several military officials. 0900 hours.”

“Luga’s coming?” Norman’s eyes got wide, and he rubbed his hand across his stubble. “I need to shave.”

“Dude!” Charles shook his head.

“What?!”

“You remember how upset mom got when I married a Mormon, and now you’re trying to look nice for a demon?” He could barely contain his laughter as he tried not to conjure a mental image.

“Not just a demon, Charlie, a succubus.” Norman grinned as he emphasized the word. “They can look like ANYONE.”

“Fair point, but I’ll stick with my human wife, thanks.” Charles checked his watch. “Well, I need to head on over to Yale, why don’t you stop by my office next time you’re at Applied Technologies.”

“I’ll do that.” The two men embraced briefly with shoulder slapping all around. “See ya, flyboy!”

“See ya, nutjob.”

Destroyer “Turner Joy” off the coast of Virginia, June 2009

The old destroyer swung her bows around and lined up for another pass at the crimson-red sea that lay stretched out in front of her. Her previous path was marked by a brilliant blue streak across the water, one that made the sea look healthy in comparison with the red mess that lay either side. Turner Joy’s pumps whined and the sprays fired out from amidships, marking the start of another pass.

“Is this going to work?” Sophia Metaxas looked doubtful, the extent of the marine disaster that had hit Earth seemed too devastating to be countered by blue dye.

“It stands a good chance.” Captain Reynolds was surveying the scene through the bridge binoculars. “The blue dye limits penetration of the wavelengths of light required for photosynthesis, and so the algae starve to death. We used a technique much like this in World War Two as an anti-submarine weapon.” He glanced sideways at Sophia.

“How?”

“Now, this ain’t no shit. We sprayed blue paint on the surface of the sea. When the submarine put its periscope up, the paint covered the lens and the skipper thought he was still underwater. So he kept on going up and when he reached 150 feet in the air, we shot him down with the anti-aircraft guns.”

Reynold’s face was completely deadpan. Sophia stared at him for a few moments as the sheer outrageousness of the story sank in. Then she started to splutter with barely-suppressed laughter. “I guess that must be what they call an old sea story?”

“One of many Sophia. Beware any that start with NTANS. But the dye thing might actually work. If we can kill off the deeper layers of the algal bloom, we can skim or pump and filter the surface layer. It’s worked inland, there’s a good chance it’ll work out here. Provided the dye doesn’t disperse too fast.”

Sophia’s mouth twisted. As expected, the Third Bowl of Wrath had hit a week or so earlier with major rivers suddenly starting to turn red with algal bloom. Once-rich fishing rivers had been decimated, their banks lined with the stinking carcasses of poisoned fish and the birds that had fed on them. The disaster, though, had been limited compared with the carnage at sea since governments had been forewarned and were waiting. The spread of the algal bloom had been limited by booms placed across the rivers, the application of finely-powdered clay had agglomerated the algae and allowed it to be skimmed off. The battle had lasted two weeks and had been a total victory for the humans. The rivers had been cleaned out and only one area of fresh water contamination remained, in the Great Lakes. That was under sustained assault from Canadian Kingston Class patrol ships and its area was shrinking daily. Now, the lessons from that battle were being applied to the algal blooms at sea.

“At least we’ve won one. Out of three.”

“Two out of three Sophia. Cipro is effective against proto-anthrax and the stockpiles are being increased every day. We won’t get caught by that one again. Even out here, we’re getting the measure of this Bowl, bit by bit. This isn’t the only area of experimental treatment you know. There’s another area off Long Island that’s being used for biological control experiments. If we can make a predator that feeds on this particular algae, we’ll have a defense in place against further attacks.”

“It’s the next one that worries me, the rain of fire.”

“I read about that. I looked up Revelation after our last chat. Hold one. Bring her around to two-seven-zero, make revolutions for ten knots. This old girl is doing well. That does sound like Belial getting back to work, doesn’t it?”

“What I want to know is, how come Revelation predicted all this stuff so accurately? It was written two thousand years ago and its been perfect up to date. Every Bowl exactly as described.”

“Oh, that’s easy Sophia. Yahweh didn’t make the prophesies to fit future events, he’s making today’s events fit old prophecies. It’s an old trick, been used for centuries. Either make the prophecies so vague and ill-defined that anything can fit them or manufacture events to match the prophecies. Let’s just hope the city defense people can abort any sky-volcano attacks before we get another Detroit.”

(Props to Chewie for the first two parts).

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