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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Bring a Flashlight, Doctor Isabella



The message light blinked in Dr. Jeanette Isabella’s transparent corneal data sheath, a message from her friend and colleague, Professor Émile Blémont.  She hadn’t seen Professor Blémont around the campus for the past several days – but this was nothing unusual.  As a diachronic anthropologist he was frequently away from his lab and his lecture hall, making observations in the field.   With a coordinated motion of her eye Dr. Isabella triggered playback of the message; the image of Professor Blémont appeared as a slightly transparent overlay in her data sheath, the audio played through direct stimulation of her tympanic membranes by microcircuits embedded in her tympanic cavity.

“Dr. Isabella, I am in need of your assistance.  My blind has suffered a serious malfunction and I will be unable to sustain power to the stealth circuits for very much longer.  I have had to shut down nearly every other system in order to reroute power to the stealth generators, but I only have enough energy to sustain this invisibility for another three standardized objective hours.  I need you to bring the fusion generator from the other blind in my lab so that I can replace the damaged one here.  Pleas hurry, Dr. Isabella.  If the stealth circuits fail, the blind will become visible and my research will be ruined – not to mention the trouble I’ll get from the time slip regulators.  I don’t even want to imagine the paperwork I’ll have to do for a disturbance in the time slip.  Come quickly, and bring a couple of flashlights.  As I said, I had to shut down everything – even the lights. 

After half an hour of twisting and pulling on the spare fusion generator (but no banging on its ceramic shell – she wasn’t sure she trusted the thing not to explode and to destroy three quarters of the state…) she pulled up the technical manual to her data sheath.  It was a simple procedure then – so simple she felt rather embarrassed to have missed the release switch.  Another 45 minutes and the temporal conductor was powered up and ready to relocate her both spatially and temporally using the coordinates left in the machine by Professor Blémont.  Isabella had accompanied Blémont a few times but had never traveled alone.  She initiated the procedure with some trepidation.

There was a bright burst of light and a quick sensation of pain – as if every inch of her skin had been simultaneously pinched.  Then everything was black.  She shrieked.

“Dr. Isabella. Please hush.” From the darkness came Professor Blémont’s calm voice.  “I’m wonderfully glad that you’ve come, but please hush. Any noise may alert the subjects to our presence.”

“Of course, Emile.” Said Dr. Isabella.  “The darkness just spooked me. I’m sorry. I should have expected it.”

“Did you bring the spare generator?”

“Yes,” she answered, “and a couple of flashlights, just as you asked.”

“That’s perfect. Perfect.”  Blémont took one of the flashlights and the fusion generator and went to work immediately. 

“Where are we?” Dr. Isabella asked.  “I mean, when and when are we?” 

“I’d rather not say at this juncture,” said Blémont as he removed a cover panel from the back wall of the blind.  “Suffice it to say, I think that I’ve located a most extraordinary event.”

He soon had the faulty fusion generator removed and the replacement installed.  The blind’s various systems came back online, including the lights.   A viewscreen came to life.  Isabella and Blémont could see a small village under a quickly darkening sky.  An alarm tone rang.

“I was afraid of this,” said Professor Blémont.  “The malfunction in the fusion generator has upset some of the blind’s other systems.  We won’t be able stay here. I ‘ll have to take the blind back to my lab for repairs and return later.”

“So your trip’s been wasted?”

“Well that’s the marvel of diachronic anthropology.  If I haven’t disturbed the time slip, I can return again and observe the event without worry.” Blémont began the procedure that would return them and the blind to his laboratory.

“But what is it you’re here to see?”  asked Isabella.  Professor Blémont just shook his head.
The temporal engines cycled up to full power, their whine was audible inside the blind, but completely masked by the stealth circuits outside.  In the viewscreen Isabella could see a young woman carrying a small child. Professor Blémont gasped and whispered, “It’s her.”

“Who is she?” asked Isabella.  “She’s beautiful. And so is the child.”

Just then the temporal engines swept them and the blind back to Professor Blémont’s campus lab.


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